Tensions On Thai-Myanmar Border: Thailand’s F-16s Check MiG-29 Jets Conducting Airstrikes Near Border

In response to escalating tension along the Thai-Myanmar border, the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has taken proactive measures by dispatching two F-16 fighter jets to patrol the airspace above Tak’s Mae Sot district. 

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The patrolling by the F-16s comes in the wake of reports of Russian-built MiG-29 fighter jets, operated by the Myanmar military, conducting air strikes close to the border area.

The RTAF announced its deployment via a Facebook post on April 10, citing the need to monitor the situation in Myanmar, particularly in the vicinity of Myawaddy township, where the recent conflict between the Myanmar military and Karen rebel forces has intensified. 

The MiG-29s were reportedly engaged in air strikes against Karen rebel forces in Myawaddy township, located approximately five kilometers from the Mae Sot border checkpoint. The explosions resulting from these strikes were audible from the Thai side. 

The F-16s, which took off from Takhli Air Force Base in Nakhon Sawan province, will conduct patrols along the Thai-Myanmar border to ensure the safety of residents and safeguard the sovereignty of Thailand’s airspace. 

Despite the heightened tension, the RTAF clarified that the MiG-29s have not been reported to Have violated Thai airspace thus far.

File Image: F-16

This development underscores the ongoing conflict in Myanmar, where the military, known as the Tatmadaw, has intensified operations against various rebel groups following the coup in February 2021. The Myanmar Air Force (MAF) frequently deploys combat aircraft to provide close air support to its ground forces.

Nonetheless, this development echoes an incident in 2022 when a Myanmar MiG-29 intruded into Thai airspace, causing panic among villagers and prompting the RTAF to dispatch F-16s for border patrol. 

At that time, Myanmar’s military junta issued an apology to Thailand following the incident, leading to increased vigilance from the RTAF, including the dispatch of F-16s for border patrols.

In a related development, Myanmar’s military regime recently sought permission from Thailand to land a transport plane at Mae Sot airport to evacuate troops and their dependents who fled Myawaddy. Thailand initially granted permission for three flights, with the first flight landing on April 7 evening. 

However, subsequent requests to cancel the remaining flights for April 8 and 9 were made by the Myanmar side, reasons for which remain undisclosed. 

Myanmar Military Loses Control Of Key Town Near Thailand Border

The Karen resistance fighters have successfully seized control of the strategically important town of Myawaddy, situated near Thailand’s Mae Sot. The town, with a population of 200,000, holds vital importance for trade, serving as a key border crossing for commercial goods and food flowing into Myanmar.

The fighting around Myawaddy has been escalating for days, with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and its allies making steady advances. Since April 5, KNLA forces have been steadily seizing military outposts and bases on the outskirts of Myawaddy. 

The last remaining stronghold, Battalion 275, fell on April 10 night, as troops stationed there expected reinforcements from the military’s Southeast Command but received none. They subsequently abandoned their posts and fled to the border bridge, according to KNU (Karen National Union, a political organization with its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army, that claims to represent the Karen people of Myanmar).

The fall of Myawaddy to the resistance forces marks another humiliating defeat for the ruling military junta, which has been steadily losing control of towns, bases, and territory across the country. Reports of troop losses and mass defections have further weakened the junta’s grip on power.

The junta, which seized power in a coup in February 2021, overthrowing the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, has faced mounting resistance from various ethnic rebel armies, including the KNLA. This resistance movement has posed a significant challenge to the junta’s authority and control.

Karen resistance forces flood into Myawaddy. Twitter

In recent weeks, ethnic insurgents in northern Kachin state captured a crucial trading town along the Myanmar-China border, along with numerous outposts and military bases, as reported by local media. 

Similarly, in western Rakhine state, the Arakan Army (an ethnic armed organization based in Rakhine State; it is the military wing of the United League of Arakan) has recently taken control of key towns and is making substantial advances against the military junta’s forces. 

Meanwhile, there are concerns among resistance fighters and residents in Myawaddy that the military junta may launch an air offensive on the town, as it has done in other areas it has lost control of. The situation remains tense as both sides assess their next moves amidst the ongoing civil unrest in Myanmar.

The fall of Myawaddy underscores the deepening crisis in Myanmar and the resilience of the resistance movement against the ruling military junta.