These photos show air strikes on western Myanmar in 2020 and a military exercise in 2018

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Three photos have been shared thousands of times in multiple posts on Facebook and Twitter alongside a claim they show an air strike near the Thai-Myanmar border in March 2021. The images surfaced after the Myanmar military launched attacks in eastern Kayin state in March 2021. However, the photos have been taken out of context: they have previously circulated in reports and social media posts since at least 2018 about other military events in Myanmar.

The images were posted here on Facebook on March 28, 2021. The post has been shared more than 1,200 times.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on March 31, 2021

The post surfaced after Myanmar's military launched air attacks in eastern Kayin state, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes, AFP reported here.

The air strikes marked a significant escalation in the military's lethal crackdown following February's coup, with the death toll reaching 564 as of April 4, 2021, according to local monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

The images were shared alongside a similar claim in English on Facebook here, here and here, and on Twitter here and here. They have also circulated in Thai here and here.

However, the images have been shared in a misleading context.

First image

A reverse image search on Google found the first image was published here on the website for Myanmar military chief Min Aung Hlaing on February 2, 2018.

The Burmese-language article translates to English in part as: "Tatmadaw [army, navy, air force] Joint Military Exercise (Sin Phyu Shin) begins.

“Nay Pyi Taw, February 2”.

In this context, “Sin Phyu Shin” refers to the name of the military event.

Naypyitaw is Myanmar’s third largest city.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the first image in the misleading post (L) and the photo on Min Aung Hlaing’s website (R)

Screenshot comparison of the first image in the misleading post (L) and the photo on Min Aung Hlaing’s website (R)

The same image was also shared here by Myanmar Peace Monitor in an article published in September 2020. 

Second image

A reverse image search on Google found a similar image posted in this tweet on March 16, 2020.

The caption reads: “Chinstate Paletwa Tsp In Wamakya village, a bomb blast by  Myanmar military this evening killed eight civilians and wounded 12 others today”.

Screenshot of the Twitter post, taken on April 1, 2021

The same image was also published in this March 16, 2020 article by Fighter Jets World, a website for aircraft enthusiasts.

The article’s headline reads: “At Least 21 Dead As Myanmar Air Force Fighter Jets Opened Fire On Civilians In Chin State: Report”.

The attack was also reported here on March 16, 2020 by Myanmar news outlet Irrawaddy.

Third image

The third image can be found here in AFP’s photo archive dated February 2, 2018.

Screenshot of the photo in AFP’s photo archives

The photo’s caption reads: “A Myanmar Air Force Mi-35 attack helicopter launches a salvo of rockets during the 'Sin Phyu Shin' joint military exercises near Pathein city in the Irrawaddy delta region on February 2, 2018”.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading Facebook post (L) and the original photo (R):

Screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading Facebook post (L) and the original photo (R)

AFP has previously debunked similar misleading posts on recent Myanmar military exercises, including here.

UPDATE 05/04/21: Fixed typo in 18th paragraph
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