Thailand ready to host 100,000 Myanmar refugees amid conflict

Picture courtesy of Bangkok Post

Thailand’s readiness to accommodate an influx of 100,000 refugees from Myanmar, due to escalating conflicts, was recently confirmed by Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara. The announcement came in the wake of rebel forces capturing Myawaddy, a border town adjacent to Tak’s Mae Sot district.

The minister’s statement followed a meeting held yesterday to discuss the evolving situation in Myanmar. The meeting involved Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, the defence forces chief, and the army commander. Parnpree assured that various agencies are equipped to manage the situation if the number of refugees surpasses the anticipated figure of 100,000. He also suggested the possibility of seeking international support if necessary.

The assembly evaluated the current condition in Myanmar after the nation’s government requested Thailand to permit three special flights from Yangon to Mae Sot. The purpose of these flights, scheduled from Sunday to Tuesday, was to safely evacuate Myanmar military officials and their families.

The meeting also reviewed the border trade situation, recognising a 30% decrease in activity in the Mae Sot district. The Foreign Minister reassured that the Thai-Myanmar border will remain open. However, if the conflicts impede the goods’ transportation, alternative routes will be arranged via other border provinces, such as Ranong.

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PM Srettha has instructed the formation of a committee, including representatives from the National Security Council (NSC), the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and security agencies. A subcommittee will regularly assess the situation and promptly report critical issues to the central committee.

Parnpree clarified that the government granted permission for Myanmar aircraft to land in the Mae Sot district only for humanitarian purposes, following a request made through the Myanmar embassy in Thailand. The request aimed to transport civilians and documents, not military personnel, weapons, or cash assets from state bank branches in Myawaddy.

Myanmar refugees

The Karen Information Centre reported that a Sunday flight from Mae Sot to Yangon was allegedly used to transport money from the Myanmar Economic Bank in Myawaddy and other private banks in the town back to Yangon.

Deputy Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thanawat Sirikul, informed that the Myanmar government cancelled the remaining flights to Mae Sot, initially scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

On the topic of potential peace talks in Myanmar, Parnpree expressed Thailand’s commitment to fostering dialogue despite the challenges. He also alluded to the importance of maintaining peace and stability in Myanmar for the mutual benefit of both nations, reported Bangkok Post.

The chairman of the Tak Chamber of Commerce, Chanin Songmek, mentioned that the conflict in Myanmar has disrupted the transport of goods from Mae Sot to Yangon since November last year, forcing many operators to resort to smaller vehicles and secondary routes.

This has particularly impacted the transport of fresh goods via Ranong, leading to increased costs for operators. He expressed hope for an early resolution of the situation to prevent further damage to border trade.

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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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