Thailand Airlifts Myanmar Military Members and Families from Rebel Conquered Territory

As this publication reported on yesterday, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) achieved a significant military victory in Myawaddy on April 7th, 2024. Up to 500 members of the 356th and 357th Light Infantry Battalions and the 275th Light Infantry Battalions have surrendered in the last 24 hours to the KNLA.

However, a number of junta forces have reportedly been able to evacuate the region by Thai military aircraft after Naypyidaw requested supported from Bangkok. Local media began reporting these developments for the first time at 0400 EST on April 7th, 2023. By 1000 EST on April 7th, Myanmar National Airlines and a military ATR72-600 aircraft were coordinated to land at Mae Sot Airport in Tak, Thailand to fly the survivors to Yangon, Myanmar. This is the first bi-lateral coordination of this kind since the 2021 coup in which a foreign partner has directly intervened in the ongoing civil war.

By 0200 EST today, April 8th, 2023, the Thai government began confirming that Myanmar military and diplomatic personnel and their families departed Mae Sot airport around 2200L for Myanmar. Thai Prime Minister Srettha and the Thai Foreign Ministry made public statements that no military supplies or capabilities were transferred to Thailand and that this operation was strictly humanitarian.

Cancelled Flights Lends Credence to Surrender Claims

By 0500 EST this morning, the Thai Foreign Ministry also confirmed that Myanmar initially requested three humanitarian flights to transfer their personnel out of the rebel held regions and back to Yangon. However, the junta cancelled two of the three flights, only successfully conducting one flight. It is not currently clear if all personnel were evacuated. It is possible that a larger airlift operation was planned by junta forces, but after the aforementioned surrenders of personnel, only one flight was needed to pull out the remaining forces.

Thailand has been a key ally to the junta through Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s personal initiative. His efforts to keep back-channel relations and allow a permissive environment on the border areas during the ongoing post-coup civil war have been significant. In June 2022, after Myanmar military aircraft violated Thai airspace during operations against rebel forces Prayuth said “it was not a big deal”.

United States Military Academy and American Military University Alumni. Victor covers flash military, intelligence, and geo-political updates.


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