A PLANE passenger was shot in mid-air in Myanmar after a bullet fired by a gunman on the ground pierced through the fuselage.

The Myanmar National Airlines plane, carrying 63 passengers, was hit as it was about to touch down in Loikaw – the capital of the eastern state of Kayah – on Friday.

Shocking images showed the bullet hole in the aircraft and a male passenger sat in his seat surrounded by blood-soaked tissues.

He can be seen slumped in his chair as he held a tissue to the right side of his neck and cheek to try and stop the bleeding before he was rushed to hospital once the plane landed.

The bullet reportedly pierced through the plane's lower fuselage as it was flying at an altitude of 3,500 feet about four miles north of the airport.

Myanmar National Airlines office in Loikaw said all flights to the city were cancelled indefinitely.

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Myanmar's military government accused rebel forces of firing at the plane – although rebel groups denied the allegations.

Major General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesperson for Myanmar's ruling military council, told state TV: "I want to say that this kind of attack on the passenger plane is a war crime.

"People and organizations who want peace need to condemn this issue all round."

The state of Kayah state has seen intense fighting between military and rebel groups after the army overthrew a democratically elected government last year and seized power.

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The takeover in February last year was met with peaceful protests – but a lethal crackdown on demonstrators led to thousands of civilians forming militia units as part of a People's Defense Force to fight back.

The military government said the shooting was carried out by Karenni National Progressive Party – a militia battling the government – and its allies in the People's Defense Force.

But Khu Daniel, a leader of the Karenni National Progressive Party, denied the accusation and said his party had not ordered its fighters to shoot at civilians or passenger planes.

"The military always blames other organisations for the shootings. Our armed wing didn't shoot the plane this morning," he said.

A spokesperson for the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, another rebel group, called the allegations nothing more than "defamatory propaganda against the revolutionary forces by the Military Council".

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He said: "The runway and the area of the airfield are surrounded by infantry battalions and high security areas. So to say that PDFs attacked the plane is only an accusation."

The government said it has ramped up security around the airport.

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