Myanmar rebels claim downing military copter

Published May 4, 2021 - Updated May 4, 2021 09:43am
In this 2012 file photo, recruits of the Kachin Independence Army, one of the country's largest armed ethnic groups, receive training at a military camp near Laiza. the area controlled by the Kachin in northern Myanmar. — AP
In this 2012 file photo, recruits of the Kachin Independence Army, one of the country's largest armed ethnic groups, receive training at a military camp near Laiza. the area controlled by the Kachin in northern Myanmar. — AP

BANGKOK: An ethnic rebel group in northern Myanmar said it shot down a government military helicopter on Monday during heavy fighting over a strategic position.

The claim by the Kachin Independence Army came as protests against Myanmar’s military government continued in Kachin State and elsewhere in the country. It would be the first aircraft shot down during recent hostilities between the government and ethnic guerrilla armies. There was no immediate comment by the government on the incident.

The Kachin are one of several ethnic minorities who have allied themselves with the nationwide protest movement against the military’s February ouster of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested and remains in detention. The country’s ethnic minorities have been fighting for decades against the central government for greater autonomy.

Government offences are underway against the Kachin and the Karen, another ethnic minority in eastern Myanmar that maintains its own armed force and also has been the target of airstrikes. The fighting in Kachin and Karen states has displaced more than 45,000 villagers.

Col. Naw Bu, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army, said his groups forces shot down the aircraft after government forces used helicopters and jet fighters in an attack on Momauk township, where the Kachin seized a base at the foot of Alaw Bum mountain from the government on March 25.

A video on social media said to be of the helicopter shows, at a great distance, an aircraft diving as the sounds of heavy weapons are heard. As the helicopter continues a steep descent, it appears to catch fire and leaves a trail of smoke. The video, and another taken from a distance showing smoke from what was said to be the crash site, could not be independently verified.

Naw Bu said it was the first aircraft shot down in what has become a fierce battle lasting almost two weeks after the government attacked with heavy artillery and fighter jets.

Good news! Our prayer has been answered. KIA shot down a terrorists helicopter, Hkanhpa Sadan, foreign secretary of the guerrilla army’s affiliated Kachin National Organisation, said on Twitter. Opponents of the military government routinely refer to its forces as terrorists.

The ruling junta continues to also face a challenge in the cities and towns of Myanmar, where street protests are still being held more than three months after it seized power.

Security forces often use lethal force to break up the protests. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which tracks deaths and arrests, said at least five civilians were killed on what protesters declared was Global Myanmar Spring Revolution Day.

The organisation said security forces have now killed 765 protesters and bystanders. The government puts the death toll at about one-third that figure and says its actions are justified to stop what it calls rioting.

The government also has kept up targeted arrests of activists and other people it considers to be behind the resistance movement. The Assistance Association says 3,555 people have been detained since the army’s seizure of power. About 40 journalists are among those being held.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2021

Opinion

Trouble in Camelot
Updated 06 May 2021

Trouble in Camelot

The electorate knows better than to swallow the government’s rhetoric.
Time to wake up
Updated 05 May 2021

Time to wake up

The criticism reflects our failure to counter rising religious intolerance and bigotry, and also exposes a diplomatic debacle.

Editorial

Proceed with caution
Updated 06 May 2021

Proceed with caution

The slightest loosening of SOP protocols could send us hurling in the direction where India finds itself today.
06 May 2021

IPP dues

THE ECC decision to pay the first tranche of outstanding dues of one set of IPPs, and further delay the payments of...
06 May 2021

Violence against doctors

HEALTHCARE workers and doctors’ associations in two major hospitals of KP are adamant that the KP Healthcare...
05 May 2021

Path of growth

FINANCE MINISTER Shaukat Tarin finally specified the future direction that the country’s economic policy will take...
05 May 2021

Human rights 2020

THE human rights situation in Pakistan, almost predictably bleak every year, was deeply impacted in 2020 by an...
Unreasonable behaviour
Updated 05 May 2021

Unreasonable behaviour

Usman Buzdar should reprimand Dr Awan for her coarse behaviour and make sure she tenders a public apology.