Burma

Bangkok Says Myanmar Junta Has Promised Written Apology for Jet Incursion

By The Irrawaddy 7 July 2022

Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told the country’s media that Myanmar had promised to send a written apology to Bangkok for the incursion by a Myanmar Air Force MiG-29 fighter jet into Thai airspace over Tak Province’s Phop Phra district on June 30.

Don met his Myanmar junta counterpart, Wunna Maung Lwin, during the 7th Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bagan, Myanmar on Monday. The duo also discussed a number of issues including the intrusion into Thai airspace by the Myanmar jet, according to the Bangkok Post.

The Thai minister said Wunna Maung Lwin expressed regret over the incident, saying it was unintentional and that his government would send an official letter of apology.

Last week, the Royal Thai Air Force scrambled two F-16 jet fighters after an aircraft, believed to be a Russian-made MiG-29 of the Myanmar Air Force, intruded into Thai airspace over the western province of Tak while conducting an air strike against anti-regime rebels and anti-coup forces positioned near the border. 

For the past two weeks, Myanmar’s military regime has conducted massive airstrikes against resistance forces attempting to seize the junta’s strategic Ukayit Hta military outpost in Waw Lay in Karen State’s Myawaddy Township. On Thursday last week, the Myanmar jet fighter intruded into Thai airspace several times as it conducted a mission over Ukayit Hta to assist ground troops. 

The heavy air strikes have prevented ethnic Karen and joint resistance forces from capturing the strategic outpost, and according to Karen insurgent leaders, have effectively made it impossible for their forward forces to retreat. 

The Thai government has downplayed the incursion. 

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha said it was not a big deal as the Myanmar jet did not intend to intrude into Thai airspace but was merely trying to make a turn. 

Some Thai MPs have asked the government to clarify why the Myanmar jet fighter was allowed to enter Thai airspace while attacking resistance forces and civilians on the border.   

Don said his Myanmar counterpart had given him a guarantee that there would be no repeat of the incident. It is unclear how the regime intends to honor the guarantee, however, as its forces are still attacking and bombing ethnic insurgents, resistance forces and villages along the Thai border.

Thai troops are now patrolling the area on the border where the incursion took place last week.

Under an agreement reached by the Thai-Myanmar Township Border Committee, if artillery shells land on the Thai side of the border, Thailand will fire smoke grenades as a warning. If the shelling continues in a way that could endanger Thai people, the Thai side is authorized to return fire with live ammunition, the Bangkok Post quoted Don as quoted saying.

Just a day before the incursion, coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing met with a Royal Thai Army general to discuss stability and anti-terrorism in border areas, among other issues. A Myanmar junta media mouthpiece said the Thai general “paid respect” to Min Aung Hlaing, who staged a coup last year and continues to face strong resistance to his rule. 

Junta-controlled newspapers said Min Aung Hlaing received the Thai military delegation headed by Lieutenant General Apichet Suesat in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw. The delegation was in the country to attend the 34th meeting of the Thailand-Myanmar Regional Border Committee hosted by Myanmar. The meeting was held in the Shan State capital Taunggyi, but the Thai delegation was invited to meet Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw.

Lt-Gen Apichet is the commander of the Third Army Region (TAR), which encompasses border areas in northern Thailand neighboring Myanmar.

The TAR has been one of the most active commands in terms of dealing with the fallout from the conflict in frontier areas inside Myanmar following last year’s coup, as well as dealing with illegal migrants from Myanmar who slip across the border into Thailand in search of work.

Thailand shares a more than 2,400-km-long frontier with Myanmar. 

Since the coup, the Myanmar Air Force has effectively deployed jet fighters and helicopters to continue to bomb and attack civilian populations and resistance fighters. 

Over the past two decades it has purchased advanced fighters mainly from Russia and China. 

Since 2000, Myanmar’s military leaders have sought to replace the Air Force’s aging jet fighters with modern ones. 

Myanmar’s military acquired 12 Russian MiG-29 jet fighters in 2001, following clashes with Thai forces in northern border regions. The Thais at the time deployed US made F-16s jet fighters and apparently alarmed the Myanmar military leaders with their air defense capabilities. 

Last week, this publication also reported that Russia delivered the first two of six new Su-30 jet fighters to Myanmar in March.

The Su-30 is a twin-engine, two-seat supermaneuverable fighter jet developed by Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. It is a multirole fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air interdiction missions. The multirole fighters were used by Russia in Syria in 2015. Russia agreed to sell six Su-30 fighter jets to the Myanmar military in 2018.

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