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Junta helicopter crashes during training exercise in Myanmar

A junta-owned military helicopter crashed in northern Myanmar, according to a statement by officials on Wednesday. 

The accident was caused by mechanical failure during a training exercise in Mandalay region’s Meiktila city on Tuesday, the press release stated, adding that the pilot and trainee onboard were not injured during the crash. Meiktila is home to the junta’s Air Force Central Command.

Former junta air force sergeant Zayya told Radio Free Asia crashes have become more frequent because military aircraft are constantly in use by junta officials. 

“We have seen more aircraft crashes and the use of helicopters has increased,” said the man, who goes by one name. “Many of the aircraft that have come to us have weaknesses. Overuse of the aircraft will continue to happen.”

It’s important to check the condition of aircraft after each use, he added, but the junta can no longer do that because of the frequency they are being used in carrying out attacks all over the nation. According to a September report by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, airstrike attacks increased in Myanmar by 324% between 2021 and 2023. 

On Feb. 29, a fighter jet crashed near Magway region’s Kyu Wun village in central Myanmar. Just weeks earlier, a military plane repatriating troops who fled to India skidded off the runway at Mizoram state’s Lengpui Airport.

These crashes were preceded by more infrequent crashes in earlier years of the coup. In November 2022, a training pilot plane crashed in Tanintharyi region’s Thayetchaung township.

In June 2021, a junta passenger plane crash killed 12 people at Pyinoolwin’s nearby Anisakhan Airport in Mandalay region. The dead included a monk, two army majors, a captain and a corporal.

According to data compiled by RFA, rebel armies in Kachin, Kayin and Karenni states, as well as guerilla armies, or People’s Defense Forces, claim to have shot down seven transport helicopters and fighter jets in the three years since the 2021 coup. Five additional junta aircraft have crashed due to technical or human error.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn.