Commander-in-Chief: We Will Complete Search for Crashed Plane

By Htet Naing Zaw 11 June 2017

NAYPDYIAW—The Burma Army would complete its search for victims and debris of the military aircraft that crashed into the Andaman Sea on Wednesday, said the Burma Army Chief, adding that he believed it crashed due to bad weather.

“We will complete the search as it is in our [territorial] areas,” commander-in-chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing told reporters at a ceremony to accept donations for victims of the tragedy on Sunday at Naypyidaw Command.

“I think it is because of the weather. But, I’m not 100 percent sure. We’re still investigating,” he added.

According to radar records, the aircraft, which was flying at an altitude of 18,000 feet began to lose altitude at 1.31 pm after flying for around 30 minutes. It then began to climb slightly, but later it was believed to fall again completely, said the army chief.

“Military security forces and local police found four witnesses, two of them said they heard abnormal aircraft noises that grew louder and then faded away, and then the noises disappeared,” said the army chief.

Thirty-three bodies had been recovered by Friday evening, but severe weather in the Andaman Sea hindered the search operation on Friday and Saturday.

Only 14 bodies were identified so far as the saltwater had disfigured the bodies, said the army chief.

There were black spots on the latest body retrieved and the military would investigate with the help of Health Ministry, said the army chief.

“I feel deeply sorry about this incident. [Such an accident] never happened in the history of the military. It is the most serious loss. I’ve never expected it, not even dreamed of it. It makes me very sad,” he said.

“There are family members left behind by victims. Some people lost parents. We have to ensure their livelihoods,” he added.

The army chief said he reported to President U Htin Kyaw about the plane crash on Friday.

On Wednesday evening, the Facebook page of The Ladies Journal reported that the plane crashed because of an explosion of a gas cylinder on board. The commander-in-chief’s office issued a notice warning against publishing of unconfirmed news about the plane clash.

“We knew as soon as [The Ladies Journal] posted the news. That day, I was at the office till late. I saw the post and told my staff to complain [to The Ladies Journal] about unconfirmed news reports,” he said.

The Ladies Journal later sent a letter of apology, said the army chief.

He said the search would be completed soon as the Navy and Air Force were searching in collaboration. The spot where the plane was believed to have crashed is just 35 meters deep, he said.

“As soon as the news was reported, many fishing trawlers from Myeik and Kawthoung came to help. Over 20 fishing trawlers joined us in search and rescue operations of their own volition. Villagers from nearby villages also helped us search with their boats. I’m grateful to them,” said the army chief.

He also denounced netizens and other people who celebrated the crash. “There are people who spoke ill. I’m sad. The victims did nothing wrong. I can’t understand why [they] are happy for their deaths,” he said.