Myanmar residents flee fearing air strikes after rebels seize town

An influx of people, notably anxious about potential air strikes, queued at a border crossing to escape Myanmar early this morning. This follows the seizure of the strategic town of Myawaddy near Thailand by the anti-junta resistance, which continues to gather momentum.

Analysts suggest that the loss of Myawaddy, a vital source of revenue from border trade, adds further pressure to the junta, which is already struggling with a plummeting economy. This development also bolsters rebel groups like the Karen National Union (KNU), responsible for the assault on Myawaddy.

A 39 year old Moe Thet San resident of Myawaddy, revealed her fear of air strikes. She, along with her son of around five years old, were among those who had gathered at Mae Sot, the only fully operational border crossing, after the loud noises from the bombing led them to seek safety.

Mae Sot, situated just across the Moei River from Myawaddy, is set to receive a visit from Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara today, April 12. This follows the junta losing more territory in the recent battles.

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Junta spokesperson, Zaw Min Tun, disclosed to Myanmar media that some of their troops had surrendered due to the presence of their families. Negotiations with Thailand for their return are currently underway.

Myanmar has been convulsed with conflict since 2021, when the military overthrew an elected civilian government, leading to widespread protests and a brutal crackdown. The nationwide resistance against the junta has grown into a coordinated effort with established ethnic rebel groups, posing a significant challenge to the military across vast areas of the Southeast Asian country.

Myanmar Military

Approximately 200 members of the Myanmar military retreated to a bridge linking to Mae Sot, following the KNU’s announcement that they had secured Myawaddy. However, a counter-attack from the Myanmar military, reinforced by its air force, may be imminent, according to Dulyapak Preecharush, an associate professor of Southeast Asian Studies at Bangkok’s Thammasat University.

With the escalation of conflict in Myanmar, the number of people crossing to Mae Sot from Myawaddy has doubled to around 4,000 per day this week. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has expressed his concern that the Myanmar conflict should not intrude into Thailand’s airspace.

Despite maintaining a neutral stance in the Myanmar conflict and claiming the capacity to accommodate up to 100,000 individuals displaced by it, Thailand has been actively engaging with its neighbour, including aid deliveries, since the Bangkok-born Srettha assumed power last August.

However, the junta may face further strain following a warning by the Arakan Army rebel group of a renewed offensive in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine.

Twan Mrat Naing, the chief of the Arakan Army, has urged residents of the Rakhine cities of Sittwe and Kyauk Phyu to relocate in anticipation of a decisive battle.

The Arakan Army was a significant participant in Operation 1027, a concerted attack by three rebel groups last October that captured substantial territory from the junta, reported Bangkok Post.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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