Myanmar junta sends a rescue plane to Tak but fails as soldiers don’t arrive. Signs of the regime’s collapse evident as rebels gain ground. Move Forward Party’s Pita Limjaroenrat warns the government not to inadvertently aid the despised junta.

The junta in Myanmar is moving inexorably towards defeat at the hands of a wide ethnic and democratic rebel alliance. On Saturday, the strategically important town of Myawaddy fell. In the hours that followed, desperate Myanmar officials tried to organise an airlift of 617 fleeing officers and family members from Thailand’s Tak province. However, they never showed up. It is the latest sign that the unpopular junta regime in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar’s modern capital, is coming to an end. On Monday, former Move Forward Party leader, Pita Limjaroenrat called on the government to grant relief to all refugees. However, he cautioned the Pheu Thai-led government not to give comfort or support to the illegal junta regime. The junta led by General Min Aung Hlaing was installed by a military coup d’état on February 1st 2021.

Former Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat(left) on Monday warned the Thai government about assisting the illegal junta regime in Myanmar. It came after the government, on Sunday, approved a flight by Myanmar forces into Tak Airport to secure Tatmadaw military officers (inset) and family members. They failed to appear. In turn, the junta led by General Min Aung Hlaing (inset), cancelled two further scheduled flights.

The Thai government on Tuesday is to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Myanmar. It comes after dramatic developments confirmed by the BBC on Saturday.

This saw the strategically important Karen town of Myawaddy fall to rebel forces.

Rebel forces in the area, adjacent to Mae Sot and Tak province in lower northern Thailand, include the Karen National Union (KNU). They are supported by the Burmese People’s Defence Armed Forces (PDF). 

Thailand approved three flights from Myanmar’s armed forces to land at Tak Airport related to the rescue of military personnel after the fall of Myawaddy

On Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok confirmed a request from the reviled Myanmar junta to be able to land three flights at Tak Airport.

Ostensibly, this was related to the rescue of 617 people from the war-torn state. In brief, these were Tatmadaw personnel and their families fleeing the rebels as they stormed the strategically important town.

However, the flight, while it landed on Sunday, was not met by refugees from Burma as the party concerned failed to cross the border.

Later, the Myanmar junta contacted Thai authorities and cancelled the remaining flights for Monday and Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Thai cabinet at Government House will discuss the situation. 

It comes with the Myanmar junta and the Tatmadaw increasingly on the back foot. Reports suggest an army losing manpower on the ground, low morale and weakening control of the state.

The National Unity Government in Burma is winning what is already a civil war in Thailand’s Western neighbour. It controls large swathes of the country

Over 60% of the country is now controlled by the National Unity Government. 

This is the rebel government made up of representatives of ethnic groups and previously elected MPs.

In addition, it includes the country’s largest political party, the now banned National League for Democracy. Similarly, MPs, elected in the November 2020 General Election.

This election was annulled by the military led by General Min Aung Hlaing when it seized power in February 2021. After that, the junta was never accepted by the public in Thailand’s neighbouring country.

Outgoing Foreign Minister defends his two days of regional dialogue with Myanmar held in Pattaya

The revolution against it, unlike other revolts, is widespread and supported by young people who have taken up arms.

Formerly, the military has dominated Burmese politics since 1962.

However, the brief period of democratic rule from 2015 to 2021 gave the Burmese people a taste of progress. Certainly, its young people did not want to go back to military rule.

Thai government still, by and large, pursues the same policy as the ministry of General Prayut Chan Ocha in relation to Myanmar. Opportunity for change

The Thai government under Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is under pressure to vary the policy pursued by its predecessor. 

In effect, it is being called upon to support the democratic resistance in Myanmar. At the same time, Thai firms are net investors in the war-torn country and the kingdom wants to see a return to stable government.

Therefore, at this time, Bangkok still works with the increasingly isolated and embattled junta in Nay Pyi Taw, the newly built Myanmar capital.

The model urban centre was created by the military in 2005. The city, the third largest in the country, has a population of a million people.

Indeed, the junta government’s power is now significantly limited to the city and other urban areas.

Presently, there are reports of guerrilla attacks now happening in the country’s main city Yangon.

These are targeting loyalists of the despised regime and its operational centres.

Myanmar junta terrorising the population from the air

Nevertheless, the military while losing ground throughout Myanmar, is at the same time, resorting to air power and bombing. This has terrorised the civilian population.

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On Monday, Mr Thanawat Sirikul, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok, held an urgent press conference.

In short, he confirmed a Burmese aircraft had landed at Tak Airport in Mae Sot on Sunday.

A request was received through the Royal Thai Embassy in Nay Pyi Taw on Saturday. The government approved a total of three flights. However, the two others were subsequently cancelled.

The government saw this as a matter of providing humanitarian assistance.

Thailand approved Myanmar’s request for special flights on Sunday, April 7, 2024. It comes amid escalating tensions along the Thai-Myanmar border. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified that the approval was granted after considering the potential need for evacuations due to safety concerns.

Urgent press conference given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok over flight that landed in Tak on Sunday. Government to review the situation

Mr Thanawat, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Information and Deputy Spokesperson of the Ministry, addressed the urgent press conference.

At length, he emphasised Thailand’s commitment to assisting all parties in Myanmar based on humanitarian principles. 

The decision to approve Myanmar’s request was made at a government level. It highlights Thailand’s willingness to aid in potential evacuations of Myanmar personnel and their families to safer areas.

However, concerns arose regarding the nature of this assistance.

Mr Pita Limjaroenrat is Chairman of the advisory board to the leader of the Move Forward Party, the kingdom’s largest.

The party leader, currently the country’s most popular politician and choice for PM, urged caution.

Pita Limjaroenrat voices concern that the Thai government may inadvertently aid the reviled and illegal Myanmar junta which seized power in February 2021

Certainly, Pita was anxious as to whether Thailand’s support could inadvertently benefit the Myanmar military junta.

In brief, he emphasised the need for transparency and clarity regarding the details of the assistance provided.

At the same time, he urged the government to ensure that humanitarian aid does not inadvertently assist the military regime.

The embattled young Thai politician faces a possible ban from politics in the coming weeks.

It comes with the probable dissolution of the Move Forward Party, currently before the Constitutional Court.

Mr Pita warned about possible retaliation from the brutal junta in Nay Pyi Taw against people in Myawaddy.

The key political leader also highlighted the international principle of non-refoulement.

Move Forward and its spokespeople have long warned the present government and previous ministry that refugees from Myanmar must not be repatriated against their will.

Mr Pita said this principle applied to both sides of the conflict.

Rome calls for clarity on handling of Myanmar rebels reportedly handed back to the military junta

Previously, the government of General Prayut Chan Ocha had handed over People’s Defence Armed Forces (PDF) fighters to Burmese junta forces.

Some of those died within hours at the hands of the junta, the rest were interrogated and imprisoned.

Real fears the junta may bomb Myawaddy’s population

The junta led by General Min Aung Hlaingm, it is feared, may now carpet bomb Myawaddy.

Mywaddy is a strategically important town in Karen State in Southeastern Burma.

It borders Tak Province.

The local Karen National Union is part of the rebel movement. It has long fought for an independent Karen state.

The current rebel alliance foresees a new federalised union of Burma following the defeat of the junta in Nay Pyi Taw.

Meanwhile, reports are confirmed about Myanmar’s request to airlift fleeing officials and their dependents from Myawaddy.

The request, lodged on Saturday, aimed at evacuating 617 military officers and their families. In truth, this highlighted the severity of the situation facing the junta and the need for swift action.

Nevertheless, there are counter reports that these forces may have opted to surrender or indeed defect to the rebel forces.

This trend follows harsh sentences imposed on senior military officers in January after another defeat for the junta in northern Shan State.

Death sentences for senior officers after Shan State surrender in January 2024 further drove more senior Tatmadaw officers to defect or surrender to rebels

Previously, the Chindwin News Agency reported that a court in Nay Pyi Taw imposed the death sentence on three brigadier generals for their role in that surrender. In addition, three others were sentenced to life in prison. This was on January 20th 2024.

The six top officers were linked to the January 5th surrender of Laukkai, in Shan State. This is the capital of the Kokang Self-Administered Zone on the border with China.

It comes with reports of extreme violence and torture within prisons controlled by the junta regime led by General Min Aung Hlaing.

At the same time, there are, additionally, reports of a shortage of food and substandard food being available to such centres.

Undoubtedly, public support and indeed military capability on the ground for the regime is crumbling.

Hundreds of Myanmar forces surrendered on Saturday with the fall of Myawaddy. 

Rebel forces reported to be negotiations with one heavily armed battalion near Myawaddy and the Thai border in Tak, to surrender to the rebel alliance

Reports suggest that one battalion, the 275th Battalion, with heavy arms and artillery in the field, was holding out.

However, it was also reported that negotiations between the unit’s commanders and rebel forces were taking place.

The rebel group are anxious to avoid unnecessary losses as well as further suffering by the local population.

The 275th Battalion has its main camp only 5 km from Mae Sot on the border with Thailand in Tak province.

Thailand’s government is set to conduct a full appraisal of the situation on Tuesday.

There is obviously now a significantly altered situation in Myanmar.

Unquestionably, the main concern for Thai officials is the growing potential for a refugee crisis if there is further escalation of conflict along the border. 

The loss of Myawaddy to opposition forces signifies a significant defeat for the Myanmar military junta.

In the longer term, the threat posed by instability in the region is rising. In short, the need for a peace deal and the surrender of the junta to civilian authorities is emerging. 

At the same time, this may be a key opportunity for the government in Bangkok.

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Further reading:

Outgoing Foreign Minister defends his two days of regional dialogue with Myanmar held in Pattaya

Hated Burmese junta regime seeks peace talks as its grip on power across the country unravels

Bangkok sends delegation to meet Myanmar’s pariah junta regime in its eerie capital Nay Pyi Taw

Rising Anger at Myanmar’s regime is leading to scrutiny of its clandestine business links with Thailand

UN official slams ‘Distorted’ international response to Myanmar after Horrific junta atrocity

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Desperate Myanmar junta executes 4 including a former MP and pro-democracy activist by hanging

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