A military jet fighter was shot down again in Northern Shan State; The entire battalion surrendered at Kyauktaw, Rakhine State

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – January 16 by MoeMaKa Media 

A military jet fighter was shot down again in Northern Shan State; The entire battalion surrendered at Kyauktaw, Rakhine State

In a significant turn of events, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) reported on January 16 that they successfully shot down a military jet fighter from the Air Force of the Military Council. The incident occurred near Nam Hpat Kar village in northern Shan State, an area currently engulfed in intense conflict. The Air Force’s reliance on air attacks, as opposed to ground offensives, has made it a primary target for ethnic armed groups.

The spokesperson for the KIA confirmed the crash near the Military Council’s Infantry Battalion No. 123, situated close to Nam Hpat Kar Village in Kutkai Township, adjacent to the Lashio-Muse Union Highway. Although photos of the wreckage and details regarding casualties, including the number of pilots, remain undisclosed, the KIA asserted responsibility for downing the aircraft. The specific weapon used in the attack was not disclosed by the KIA. This incident follows the recent downing of a military helicopter by the KIA, resulting in the deaths of at least six members of the military council, including Air Force officers.

In the backdrop of internal armed conflicts, where ethnic armed groups and People’s Defense Force (PDF) units engage military council installations, the military’s response has heavily relied on air support for over two years. With ground forces facing challenges in dominating ground connections, the military council increasingly depends on air defense. Conversely, ethnic armed groups and PDF forces encounter difficulties defending against air attacks due to the complexity and cost of acquiring anti-aircraft weaponry. Speculation arises about the KIA’s possession of anti-aircraft capabilities as it achieves successive shootdowns of military council aircraft.

The ability of ethnic armed groups to resist air strikes to some extent significantly impacts the military council’s efforts to maintain a balance of power in cities and camps. The recent incidents near Narphawt Camp in Kachin State and Kutkai in northern Shan State raise questions about the potential weakening of the military council’s defense, heavily reliant on the air force to prevent the fall of camps and cities.

Another significant development involves the surrender of the Military Council’s Light Infantry Battalion LIB-539, stationed near Kyauktaw city in the southern part of the recently captured Paletwa region, after an attack by the Arakan Army (AA). The surrender includes around 300 individuals, comprising military council troops and their family members. Video footage circulating online depicts members of the military council with their hands tied, escorted alongside their untied family members and children. While it remains uncertain whether the AA has taken control of Kyauktaw Town, recent reports indicate the AA’s capture of all military camps, strategic hills, and Paletwa town in the region. Furthermore, the 377th Artillery Battalion near Kyauktaw Town was reportedly attacked and captured on January 14.

Since the resumption of armed clashes in early November, the military council has imposed a blockade on the import, export, and transportation of goods throughout Rakhine State. Consequently, essential commodities such as basic food and fuel are witnessing unprecedented price hikes. The people of Rakhine State find themselves grappling with the dual challenges of navigating the impact of soaring commodity prices and avoiding the perils of conflict.