Academic, former diplomat calling out Thai government for taking side with Myanmar army
Victims of MiG-29 crying out for a lack of attention to them
On 3 July 2022, Major General Saw Nerdah Mya, Commander of Karen National Defence Organization (KNDO), in his interview to Transborder News, spoke about the reports that forces from the Karen National Union (KNU) and its alliances are withdrawing from the battlefield closer to the Myanmar military bases near Oo Kle Hta, after days of heavy airstrike by the Myanmar army’s MiG-29 fighter jets that, actually, the seizure of the Myanmar military base has successfully been made since 30 June and we have burned and seized a number of weapons from the Myanmar military. Since the start of the airstrike, forces of the KNU and its alliances have spread out and have not suffered any fatalities. As the Myanmar army wants to clear the area, they have employed fighter jets to drop bombs in civilian area including in Thay Baw Boe village causing deaths among the villagers and many of them have fled to Thailand.
“At the moment, the troops of KNU and People’s Defense Force (PDF) are still active like before. They will continue to push back until all Myanmar military men are cleared from the area. We simply cannot stay at the Myanmar military bases we have seized since doing so would leave us a target of the airstrike. Meanwhile, the Myanmar military have tried to reclaim their bases. It’s ok, they could do what they can, so do we. We will continue to press them. This is just a test fight” said Major General Nerdah Mya.
According to the KNDO’s commander, during the skirmishes, we have suffered little losses compared to the Myanmar army which have seen around 200 casualties. And we have seized a number of weapons from them. We believe that the situation in this area will get deescalated. Right now, the Myanmar military has shifted their focus to the area under the command of the KNU’s Brigade 3.
Asked if the violation of Thai airspace by the Myanmar fighter jets was intentional, Major General Nerdah Mya said that it was intentional since the Myanmar military was upset with Thailand. They believe Thailand has been supplying weaponry to the various ethnic armed organizations. And most importantly, as I have said before, it appears the pilots of MiG-29 fighter jets are not Myanmar soldiers. Judging from how the planes take off, land, and conduct the strike, it is similar to the Russian airstrike against Ukraine. Myanmar pilots would not have such skill in conducting the airstrike.
“Actually, no other countries in the world would have attacked their own people with such fighter jets and by targeting their civilians. No one would do this. It makes me think perhaps, the Myanmar army assumes that the land of the Karen is not part of their territory and thus they adopt this method. This even prompts us to think more about declaring the land of Kawthoolei” said the KNDO’s commander.
Concerning the proposal to declare border area a no-fly zone, Major General Nerdah Bo Mya said that he agrees with it since the land is inhabited by a lot of civilians, particularly children and women who have to suffer disproportionately from the airstrike.
Asked what he thinks about attempts by the Myanmar army to persuade leaders of some ethnic armed organizations to a negotiation, Major General Nerdah Bo Mya said that this will lead to no better solution. It is only a scam by the Myanmar army. As far as I remember since born, my father, (General Bo Mya, former President of KNU) has been invited to negotiate with the Myanmar army many a time with no success. I have no idea why some people still believe in what the Myanmar military has to say instead of paying attention to the suffering of their fellow sisters and brothers.
Prof. Surachart Bamrungsuk from the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University and Mr. Ras Chalee Chan, former Thai ambassador to Mozambique and Kazakhstan have given an interview to The Politics program. Prof. Surachart said that one day prior to the violation of Thai airspace by the Myanmar fighter jets, the Thai 3rd Army Area Commander has gone to Naypyidaw and met with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing preceding the violation of our airspace by MiG-29 fighter jets. The meeting was certainly the chance to seek permission to use our territory for the fighter jets to veer off into the horn-like land. Until now, we have been very stringent about protecting our airspace. I do not think this mistake has been made by the discretion of low-raking officers. The point is in other countries, when such incidence happens, it has often led to the resignation of high-ranking commanders.
Prof. Surachart believes that with military intelligence, the Thai army would have known since when such violation of airspace first took place. With certain incursion of the aircraft, the RTAD air defense system would be notified. And when such incursion has repeated, there must be some procedural response by the army which may escalates to the point of having to fly a plane to give them warning. In this case, it appears not to be merely an incursion into our border area, but an airstrike was conducted several times in our territory. This is quite a big challenge for Thailand since we have invested in our air defense system when Vietnam invaded Laos. RTAD is one of the best systems available to us and we should be notified when this happens.
“There could be only one interpretation since the incidence was preceded by the visit of the Thai 3rd Army Area Commander. Who has instructed the 3rd Army Area Commander to go there since no one wants to visit Myanmar now? The visit was like the showing of solidarity with them, “I stand by you” and as a result of which Thailand has been subject to criticism from international community. It could spur suspicion among the ethnic groups which have pinned their hope on us. The discourses of “not a big deal” or “just a stray into our courtyard” are unacceptable to the Thais. The army has been deeply vested with the task to defend our national sovereignty. I would not want to call them a dilapidated fence, but the Thai government must make it stand clear” said Prof. Surachart.
The lecturer from the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University also said that Thailand must also play a protagonist role concerning Myanmar. Are we acting as a villain colluding with the Myanmar leaders? And they have to be careful about complaining that they cannot do that (defending the airspace) because of a lack good tools. It sounds like they are extorting money from the people to purchase F35 fighter jets. We also have to ask what is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs doing? Since this incidence happened, they have done nothing. In fact, it should be the role played by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the special envoy appointed by him.
“Thailand has to brace itself, otherwise, we would become a buffoon for international community. Don’t just think they cannot figure this out” said Prof. Surachart.
Mr. Ras said that messaging from the Thai leaderships to the public that “let the bygones be bygones”, “they have simply veered off a little bit” shows that they forgot that they have not only spoken to the Thai public, but also to reporters and foreign diplomats, who are listening to them. The incursion of the Myanmar fighter jets could not be interpreted otherwise. It was an international act to conduct an airstrike in our backyard. Clearly, it was an intentional act by Myanmar, and you cannot simply brush it off. This would make it appears we are supporting or colluding with the Myanmar military dictatorship in their extermination of the ethnic groups. And Thai people’s property has been damaged as well. An effort should be made to claim damages from the Myanmar army and to lodge a formal protest to them.
Mr. Ras said that through a diplomatic procedure, after lodging a protest, there should be an official apology and compensation. This is a normal course of diplomacy to maintain national dignity and to prevent further incursion as well as to ensure injured parties get compensated.
Mr. Sayan Wongchai, a villager whose pickup truck has been damaged by the airstrike of the Myanmar army’s MiG-29 on 30 June revealed that on the same day, he has gone to meet Mr. Somchai Kitcharoenrungroj, Tak Governor during his visit to Valley Village. The governor also asked about the damage inflicted on the vehicle and he replied that the fix would cost about 200,000 baht since its interior has been heavily damaged and he could not use it. The governor was stunned by the extent of the damage.
“He barely asked about the incidence. It appears he did not pay much attention to what has happened to me. I felt so ashamed while meeting with hm when he was there to offer help to the children. I did not want to plead for help. I simply want someone to be held accountable to the incidence. Since this has been inflicted by the MiG-29 fighter jet, the Myanmar military has to be held accountable. I want the Thai military to coordinate with the Myanmar military to seek the compensation” said Mr. Sayan.
Mr. Sayan said that he believes the Myanmar military intentionally shot at his vehicle since the plane was flying around the area three times and the vehicle was pulled over more than one kilometer from the border. They have simply missed the target about three meters, and his car got damaged by the shrapnel. There was, however, a large crater in the area as a result of the strike. The evidence is so obvious, and he cannot understand why some people have accused him of making this thing up.
“Why would I make this thing up? Most importantly, where could I find such lethal weapons? Just look at the evidence. The crater is still there. I was disappointed that the government officers who could have taken care of us, have simply left us at our own devices. Everyone just refuses to help ensure compensation for me” said Mr. Sayan.
Meanwhile, it has been reported by the Tak Public Relations Office that on the same day, Mr. Somchai Kitcharoenrungroj, Tak Governor, together with Ms. Wanruedi Kitcharoenrungroj, President of Tak Provincial Red Cross Office and President of the Tai Housewives Interior Society, Mr. Sompong Fungthaweewong, District Chief Officer of Phop Phra, military and police officers and Kamnan and Village Headmen have made a visit to show moral support to the asylum seekers from Myanmar at a warehouse in Ban Valley Nua, Moo 3, Ban Mokor Thai, Moo 1, Tambon Valley and Wat Ban Muen Lue Chai, Tambon Phop Phra, Phop Phra District, Tak, and given more than 600 asylum seekers money for purchasing fresh and dried food as they sought refuge in the three temporary shelters.
According to Mr. Somchai, concerned authorities have been instructed to offer help to the asylum seekers in the three temporary shelters and donations are being sought to help them as well. Our cooks will cook for their every meal. As to the child dependents who tag along the asylum seekers and have entered Thailand, the District Chief Officer of Phop Phra has been asked to offer them special care and to buy them milk for their health.
Ms. Amphika Khiriamphon, 39, a villager of Ban Muen Lue Chai, said that last night noise if aircrafts could be heard, albeit without gunfire and artillery noise. Being terrified and having no trust in the situation, she gets ready to stay in a bunker under her house which can accommodates all family members should there be any emergency.
This is a translation of Thai language report https://transbordernews.in.th/home/?p=31919