Myanmar fighter jet crosses into Thailand's air space in Tak

Myanmar fighter jet crosses into Thailand's air space in Tak

A Myanmar fighter jet is spotted crossing into Thailand's air space over Phop Phra district in Tak on Thursday. (Photo: Assawin Pinitwong)
A Myanmar fighter jet is spotted crossing into Thailand's air space over Phop Phra district in Tak on Thursday. (Photo: Assawin Pinitwong)

TAK: A Myanmar fighter jet crossed into Thailand’s air space over Phop Phra district late on Thursday morning, panicking local residents and forcing two local schools to suspend classes.

Fighting intensified between Myanmar government troops and Karen soldiers in Myawaddy border town, opposite Ban Wao Lay Tai village in Phop Phra district of Tak province, on Thursday. Around noon, a MiG-29 Myanmar air force fighter jet intruded about 4-5 kilometres into Thailand’s airspace, over areas between Ban Wao Lay Tai and Ban Wao Lay Nua villages, a border source said.

The intrusion of the jet fighter and loud explosions in Myanmar caused panic among villagers in the two Thai border villages, prompting them to take shelter in bunkers.

Ban Wao Lay Tai School immediately suspended classes as the intruding fighter jet flew low over its buildings. Ban Wao Lay Nua School evacuated students into bunkers in the school compound. Parents also took shelter in the bunkers, and that school also suspended classes. 

The source said many Myanmar villagers continued to flee into Thai territory in Phop Phra district following intensified junta attacks in their country.

Students take shelter at a bunker at Ban Wao Lay Nua School in Phop Phra district, Tak. (Photo: Assawin Pinitwong)

Sayant Wongjai, a local resident, said his pickup truck parked at an oil palm plantation at Ban Wao Lay village was damaged by shrapnel from the fighter jet. His vehicle was about one kilometre away from the Myanmar border.

Mr Sayant said he saw the fighter jet flying across Phop Phra district. When it launched air strikes along the border, loud bangs were clearly heard, he said. 

Ms Juthanan Boonpornwong, 61, of tambon Wao Lay, said she had lived in Ban Wao Lay village for more than 30 years and had never seen such intense fighting with the use of aircraft to drop bombs. 

She said the Myanmar army fighter jet flew over the border village, which is about one kilometre away from the border. The roar of the jet caused panic among the locals, she said.

The Air Force sent two F-16 fighter jets to patrol along the border in Phop Phra district after a fighter jet was spotted crossing into Thai air space 

AVM Prapas Sonjaidee, spokesman for the Royal Thai Air Force, said a military unit under the RTAF reported that one unidentified aircraft crossed into the air space over Phop Phra district at 11.16am on Thursday. The jet launched air strikes on ethnic rebels along the border and intruded into Thailand’s air space before it disappeared from the RTAF’s radar system.

The RTAF deployed two F-16 fighter jets to conduct air patrols over the border district and ordered a military attache in Rangoon to coordinate with concerned agencies in Myanmar about the intrusion.

A source said later that Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had spoken with Air Force chief ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya about Myanmar’s air space intrusion and asked the air force to lodge a protest via the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Myanmar’s air force attache in Rangoon.

ACM Napadej later phoned his Myanmar counterpart over the incident. The Myanmar air force chief apologised and said there would be no recurrence of the incident, said the source.

Villagers flee fighting in Myanmar by crossing into Phop Phra district, Tak. (Photo: Assawin Pinitwong)

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