Anti-coup forces say they shot down plane, but military says crash was due to technical problem.

A warplane has crashed in eastern Myanmar as pressure mounts from anti-coup forces on the generals who seized power in a coup in 2021.

The Sit-Tat jet crashed in Kayah state near the border with Thailand on Saturday, with the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) claiming it shot down the plane.

However, military spokesman Zaw Min Tun told state broadcaster MRTV that the plane crashed due to a technical problem and both pilots ejected safely. He said it was on a training flight.

The crash means the military faces its biggest challenge from anti-coup forces since it seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.

An alliance of ethnic armed groups in northern Shan state launched an offensive two weeks ago that captured a number of towns and dozens of military outposts near the border with China, encouraging groups in other parts of Myanmar to step up their campaigns against the generals.

About 50,000 people have been displaced in Shan State and 40,000 in neighboring Sagaing and Kachin states, according to the United Nations.

A statement posted on the KNDF’s Facebook page said fire from heavy machine guns hit the fighter in its fuselage and one wing before it crashed far from the battlefield, leaving a trail of smoke.

The KNDF and the Karenni Army – the armed wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party – praised their members for bringing down the plane.

Mizzima, a Myanmar news agency, published images of what it said was one of the pilots’ abandoned helmet and parachute.

The KNDF is among dozens of groups that have fought to restore democracy in Myanmar after the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s government.

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