Helicopter Downed in Karen State, Military Council Engages ASEAN Diplomacy

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – January 29 By MoeMaKa Media:

Helicopter Downed in Karen State, Military Council Engages ASEAN Diplomacy

In a significant development on January 29, the Cobra Column successfully shot down a military helicopter near Thingan Nyi Naung Village in Karen State, resulting in the loss of several military officers, including a division commander. The helicopter, en route to a battalion camp of the military council, was targeted by the Karen National Union (KNU), leading to the tragic demise of Air Force officers, pilots, and the Brigadier-level commander of the 44th Division, along with four others who sustained severe injuries, according to the KNU’s official statement.

The incident marks a shift, as Brigadier Generals, once considered relatively safe, are increasingly facing perilous situations after Operation 1027. Recent months have witnessed an uptick in the number of Brigadier Generals being killed, captured, or surrendering, challenging the traditional perception of their safety. This change is attributed to the heightened risk of arrest or even death during military transitions and seizures of camps, suggesting a growing vulnerability among the military council’s higher-ranking officers.

While KNU’s actions are not framed as aggressive attacks, their brigades, in collaboration with the People’s Defense Force (PDF) members, actively engage in armed resistance against the military council in various locations, including Kawkareik and Chaung Hna Khwa.

Beyond the loss of military personnel, the downing of the helicopter underscores the significant impact on the military council’s strategic mobility. The military’s inability to secure territories has compromised troop and commander relocation, challenging the assumption that air attacks and supply deliveries provide an upper hand. The incident illuminates the vulnerability of commanders stationed outside Nay Pyi Taw and regional military headquarters.

In a parallel development, the Myanmar Military Council has sent the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs as its representative to the meeting of ASEAN member foreign ministers in Luang Prabang, Laos. This move comes after ASEAN imposed restrictions, post-April 2021, prohibiting the invitation of political appointees following the military coup. Notably, the military council refrained from sending officers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to previous ASEAN meetings.

The decision to send a representative to the current ASEAN meeting, chaired by Laos, raises questions about the military council’s diplomatic strategy and potential alignment with China’s proposals. Speculations arise on whether this move aligns with China’s roadmap for resolving the Myanmar crisis, given Laos’ close ties with China and China’s growing influence in the region.

The speculated acceptance of China’s proposed path may be driven by factors such as China’s influence over ethnic armed groups in Northern Shan, border trade dynamics, the oil and gas pipeline project, and United Nations considerations. Recent reports indicate China’s efforts to broker a ceasefire in Rakhine State amid economic and energy projects, suggesting a proactive intervention to protect its strategic interests.

As events unfold, the evolving dynamics of China’s role in Myanmar’s multifaceted challenges, from ethnic conflicts to diplomatic engagements, remain a complex narrative that continues to shape the course of the nation’s future.