A fighter jet has crashed in eastern Myanmar amid increasing pressure from anti-coup forces on the generals who seized power in a coup in 2021.
The Sit-Tat jet crashed in Kayah State near the border with Thailand on Saturday with the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) claiming it had shot down the plane.
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However, military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told state-run MRTV the aircraft came down because of a technical issue and that both pilots ejected safely. He said it had been on a training flight.
The crash comes with the military facing the most serious challenge from anti-coup forces since it seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.
An alliance of ethnic armed groups in northern Shan state launched an offensive two weeks ago that has captured a series of towns and dozens of military outposts near the border with China, emboldening groups in other parts of Myanmar to step up their campaigns against the generals.
About 50,000 people have been displaced in Shan State, and 40,000 in neighbouring Sagaing and Kachin states, according to the United Nations.
A statement posted on the KNDF’s Facebook page said fire from heavy machine guns hit the fighter in its fuselage and a wing before it crashed far from the battlefield leaving a trail of smoke.
The KNDF and the Karenni Army — the armed wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party — credited their members for bringing down the plane.
Mizzima, a Myanmar news outlet, posted images of what it said were the abandoned helmet and parachute of one of the pilots.
The KNDF is among dozens of groups that have been battling to restore democracy in Myanmar following the military’s removal of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government.