MyanmarSoutheast Asia

UNHCR weighs Thailand to accept 3,000 Myanmar refugees

Heavy artillery shelling by the military council forced the refugees to cross the Thaung River and flee to the Thai side on December 19. Photo | Karen Information Centre.

More than 3,000 Myanmar refugees in Thailand’s border province Tak, are seeking shelter inside the kingdom after they left their houses to flee the ongoing violence between Myanmar’s military and the armed wing of the Karen National Union. Now the UN’s refugee agency is calling on Thailand to give them “urgent access” to the refugees.

Hundreds fled the Karen state to Thailand to escape the artillery shelling and small arms fire between the state military and the ethnic army. But that number shot up from 700 on Thursday to 3,900 by Monday, according to the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees. The UN’s refugee agency issued a statement expressing concern for Myanmar refugees and offering assistance to Thai authorities to provide them with essential humanitarian aid.

About 3,500 refugees remain in two places on the Thai side as some have gradually returned after violence appeared to have halted yesterday, according to provincial authorities who provided aid and transportation for individuals who desired to return to Myanmar by the banks of the Moei River.

The general secretary of the Karen Women’s Organisation, Naw K’Nyay Paw, told AFP that most people are still terrified of what happened to their villages as fighting is still going on in specific locations.

More than 1,500 people arrived on Sunday as fighting erupted in Mae Htaw Thalay, a community on the outskirts of Tak province’s Mae Sot district, where displaced residents were taking refuge.

A spokesperson from the Myanmar military information team, General Zaw Min Tun, said discussions are underway with the KNU to calm the situation. However, according to state media, soldiers raided Karen territory and arrested many dissidents, including a former MP from Aung San Suu Kyi’s deposed administration.

Karen National Liberation Army is an ethnic armed group fiercely opposed to the junta that toppled a civilian administration in February and has been a staunch opponent of the junta, offering shelter to anti-coup dissidents. It is one of more than 20 ethnic armed groups occupying territory in Myanmar’s border regions.


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