The pilot of a Myanmar junta jet fighter was killed when the plane crashed into an upcountry lake on Wednesday.
The regime confirmed the incident in a statement, saying the jet from Tada-U Air Force Base in Mandalay Region was on a training mission and crashed into a lake in neighboring Sagaing Region due to a technical failure.
The region is a stronghold of opposition to the regime, which has been using air strikes to quell civilian armed resistance against it. Many believe the jet went down during a combat mission there, despite the regime’s claims.
Some local reports said the jet was a Chinese made Nanchang A-5C Fantan, which is used mainly to assist ground troops in attacking concentrated targets on land. The plane is no longer in service in many of the countries that once used it. Even China retired it in 2010.
Wednesday’s crash is the latest mishap for the Myanmar Air Force, which is known for frequent deadly crashes, even during training missions, due to its largely outdated fleet.
In June last year, 12 people were killed when a Myanmar military plane carrying a senior monk and several donors to a religious event crashed in the central region of the country.
In 2017, a military plane crashed into the Andaman Sea, killing all 122 people on board. Authorities blamed bad weather.
Judging from the response on social media, Wednesday’s news of the loss of the Air Force plane and pilot elated many in Myanmar, which has been under military rule for more than a year now.
Due to the regime’s brutal killings, arbitrary arrests of protesters and air strikes on civilian areas over the past year, people no longer have faith in the military; most are disgusted with it. Local armed resistance groups like the People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) have received strong public support for their efforts to topple the regime, and most people heartily embrace any losses on the regime side.
When news of the crash broke on Wednesday, it quickly trended on Facebook, Myanmar’s most popular social media platform. Many wondered, “Is the pilot dead?”
One user wrote: “Are the fish in the lake safe?”
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