Myanmar’s Pro-Democracy movement employs drones against military junta

Pro-democracy fighters in Myanmar led by the Mandalay People’s Defence Force are employing grassroots-driven innovation to challenge the military junta’s dominance.

Pro-democracy fighters in Myanmar are leveraging drones as a formidable tool in their ongoing struggle against the military junta or the military-led government that took power in February 2021. Led by the Mandalay People’s Defence Force (PDF), these fighters are deploying aerial assaults as a countermeasure to challenge the junta’s dominance, particularly in the face of sophisticated military aircraft.

Under the leadership of Soe Thuya Zaw, the drone unit is at the forefront of this innovative approach. Swiftly preparing drones like “Bomber VIII,” armed with 6kg explosives, the team targets military bases in a bid to disrupt the junta’s strategic positions. Despite an initial setback with a failed attempt, the drone operations have proven effective, leading junta chief Min Aung Hlaing to acknowledge the military’s retreat from certain positions.

The unique aspect of these drone operations lies in their grassroots origin, being entirely the creation of Myanmar’s Generation Z. This grassroots initiative signifies a bold departure from conventional resistance tactics. The collaborative efforts extend beyond the Mandalay PDF, with ethnic minority armed groups forming alliances to jointly deploy drone attacks, signalling a united front against the junta.

However, drone operations come with inherent risks due to limited range, as acknowledged by Soe Thuya Zaw. To overcome challenges, the Mandalay PDF employs workshops in the remote hills of northern Shan state, using 3D printers to produce prototype “drop bomb” shells. These shells, filled with non-explosive materials, are tested in drone missions to ensure their efficacy.

Despite the risks involved, recent waves of drone attacks have seen success in displacing junta troops, hitting domestic airports, and causing casualties near the China border. This adaptability and resilience demonstrated by pro-democracy fighters, particularly the Mandalay PDF’s drone unit, underscore the determination to defy the junta’s oppressive rule and explore innovative means to reclaim autonomy and democracy in Myanmar.

As the conflict unfolds, the strategic use of drones introduces a dynamic element to the pro-democracy movement, challenging the junta’s established military prowess. This grassroots-driven adaptation showcases resilience and determination in the face of adversity, marking a significant chapter in the ongoing quest for autonomy and democracy.