Thai chopper relief team found safe in Myanmar

Stranded for a fortnight, helicopter crew member Shwe Yin Taw Gyi welcomes a warm kiss from his rescuer Tay Za. Photo: Thapanee

A helicopter relief team has been found safe in remote northern Myanmar, officials said Tuesday, more than a week after losing contact during a rescue mission for two lost mountaineers.

Sent on a search operation organised by controversial Myanmar tycoon Tay Za, the Thai pilot Capt. Chatchawal Thanthong and two Myanmar crew members made contact on Tuesday, 10 days after their chopper vanished soon after takeoff in bad weather in far northern Kachin state.

“We have found three missing people from the helicopter,” Nyi Min San, a spokesman of Tay Za’s Htoo Foundation told AFP.

“As far as I know, they are in good health. We do not know the detail of what happened,” he said.

He said that the men were found in a village miles away from where they had taken off from, but it was not immediately clear whether they had crash landed.

Rescuers on Saturday said they had suspended aerial searches because of extreme bad weather and heavy snowfall in the mountainous region.

Hopes are fading of finding the climbers alive after they lost contact with their team in early September.

The discovery of the helicopter, which had been carrying supplies to the rescue teams, was also confirmed by Thailand’s Advance Aviation.

“Three people in the helicopter were found safely today,” sales manager Punyisa Chausong said.

The missing climbers, Aung Myint Myat and Wai Yan Min Thu, lost contact with the rest of their team in early September after reaching the summit of Hkaka Borazi in Myanmar’s portion of the Himalayas at 5,881 meters.

Myanmar’s Htoo Foundation is the charitable arm of the sprawling Htoo Group of Companies which spans teak logging to an airline.

Tay Za, who has also been accused of arms dealing, has links to the former ruling junta and is blacklisted by U.S. sanctions.

The tycoon is an enthusiastic mountaineer and has an eco resort in the remote northern town of Putao.

He has travelled to the region to oversee the rescue efforts.

Story: AFP

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