By Thai Newsroom Reporters
PRIME MINISTER-CUM-DEFENCE Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and air force chief ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya will be obliged to testify before the House Armed Services Committee over yesterday’s (June 30) crossborder intrusion into Thai airspace by a Myanmar MiG-29 jet, an opposition MP said today (July 1).
Thai Civilized party leader/MP Mongkolkit Suksintharanon who currently sits on the House Armed Services Committee confirmed both Prayut and ACM Napadej will be shortly summoned for testimony before the House panel over the surprise event in which the Myanmar MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter flew across the Thai-Myanmar border into Thai airspace over Popphra district of Tak to attack Karen rebel bases along the border in Myawaddy township with missiles and bombs.
A couple of Thai F-16 Fighting Falcon jets took to the sky from Wing 4 in Takhli moments after the Myanmar MiG-29 had returned into Myanmar airspace, thus negating the possibility of a mid-air dogfight.
The premier and the air force chief will be inquired as to why the Thai side had failed to send an alert warning to the Myanmar side immediately after the Russian-made jet had popped up on a radar in the border area or to have the US-made fighter jets promptly intercept the intruder.
“There might probably be a hidden agenda earlier reached between the Thai and Myanmar sides to the extent that the Thai airspace be secretly offered for use by the Myanmar air force to launch air strikes on the Karen rebels along the border,” Mongkolkit said.
The maverick MP commented that the House committee has considered the event as a grave concern over Thailand’s territorial integrity which, he said, has already been compromised by the Myanmar jet’s unwelcome intrusion into Thai airspace.
Nevertheless, ACM Napadej downplayed the rare event as an “unintentional” one on the part of the Myanmar air force and assured the Thai air force has taken the appropriate steps to respond to the MiG-29 fighter jet’s intrusion into Thai airspace.
The Myanmar jet sent many villagers in Wale subdistrict of Popphra running for shelter as the intruding fighter was conducting the air strikes at low altitude for about 15 minutes in Thai airspace.
The aerial attacks by Myanmar jets and helicopters on the Karen rebel bases in Myawaddy reportedly resumed by mid-morning today as the Thai authorities were closely monitoring the radar screens to see to it that such aerial intrusions across the common border will not happen again, according to the air force chief.
ACM Napadej quoted an unnamed Myanmar air force officer as saying the MiG fighter pilot’s visibility was very poor due to gloomy weather and that he had no intention to intrude into Thai airspace whilst conducting his mission.
The Thai air defence control and interception systems installed along the Thai-Myanmar border are constantly and efficiently operated, the air force chief said.
The military attache at the Thai embassy in Yangon has already cautioned the Myanmar government over the incident for which the Thai side has opted to not use force as yet, according to ACM Napadej, who is scheduled to retire at the end of September.
Myanmar’s MiG-29 fighter jet flying over Thai territory yesterday. Photo: Stringer/BBC THAI