By Thai Newsroom Reporters
PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha is being held accountable for the rare incident in which a Myanmar MiG-29 jet intruded into Thai airspace, literally breaching the latter’s territorial integrity, said an academic today (July 2).
Chulalongkorn University political scientist Surachart Bamrungsuk commented that Prayut who concurrently performs as defence minister should be definitely held responsible for the questionable failure to have deterred the MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jet from intruding into Thai airspace over Popphra district of Tak across the border from Myawaddy township in southern Myanmar on Thursday.
Given a slow response from a couple of the Thai air force’s F-16 Fighting Falcon jets to make their airborne presence felt over the shared border, the premier-cum-defence minister could probably be alleged of having managed, albeit in hush-hush fashion, to facilitate a combat mission of the Myanmar jet, armed with missiles and bombs, against Karen rebel bases with the use of the Thai airspace, according to the Chulalongkorn political scientist.
The academic doubted the Thai air force’s Quick Reaction Alert procedure had been strictly followed since the US-made F-16s had reportedly flown from Wing 4 air base in Takhli to the alerted scene well after the intruding Russian-made jet had finished its combat mission and returned to the Myanmar side of the border.
The Thai fighter would normally take no more than 10 minutes to fly from Takhli to Popphra whereas the Myanmar jet had reportedly spent some 15 minutes in Thai airspace bombing and firing missiles on the Karen bases along the common border.
Surachart said Thailand could probably be prone to international criticism for the failure to have taken a neutral stand between Myanmar government forces and armed ethnic minority groups and the alleged assistance tacitly provided for the Myanmar air force to launch air strikes on the Karen rebels from inside the Thai airspace over the shared border.
Surachart advised that Prayut promptly issue an official statement in response to the incident which the premier-cum-defence minister considered to be “unintentional” and “no big trouble caused” and to manifest Thailand’s principal stands on the internationally recognized issues pertaining to ethnic minority groups and human rights abuses.
Air force chief ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya said the Thai-Myanmar relationship has been invariably viewed as “friendly” and that the Myanmar government had already offered apologies for the “unintentional” incident whilst the military attache to the Thai embassy in Yangon had formally cautioned the Myanmar government to the extent that it not occur again.
Prayut told reporters that the Myanmar jet had virtually taken a wide u-turn in the sky without intention to intrude into the Thai airspace whilst ACM Napadej figuratively put it: “Should we have killed a neighbour who merely trespassed upon our front yard?”
Nevertheless, the House Armed Services Committee is expected to shortly summon the premier-cum-defence minister and the retiring air force chief for testimony over the incident which many people have found to be a sheer violation of Thai territorial integrity.
House committee member Mongkolkit Suksintharanon said the Thai fighters could have responded to the Myanmar intruder faster than they did and otherwise engaged in an airborne dogfight over the mountainous border area.
The Thai Civilized party leader/MP said Prayut and ACM Napadej will be questioned why the Thai side had failed to flash an alert warning to the Myanmar side immediately after the MiG-29 popped up on radar at the border.
Villagers in Wale subdistrict of Popphra have run for shelter as the Myanmar air strikes have raged on along the border since the last several days.
Myanmar government forces have continued to attack the Karen rebel bases, prompting more than 500 refugees, mostly being children, women and the elderly, to flee across the turbulent border from Myawaddy to the Thai territory.
In this image taken from video, a fighter jet flies overhead and visible from Tak province, Thailand on Thursday, June 30, 2022. A Myanmar fighter jet crossed the border into Thailand’s airspace, prompting Thai air force jets to scramble and officials to order the evacuation of villages and classrooms, officials said. Photo: AP /Chiravut Rungjumrusrussamee and published by ABC News