Eruption of violence in Myanmar sends thousands fleeing into Thailand

Photo via Twitter @akmoe2

Thousands of refugees fled across the Moei River from Myanmar into temporary shelters in Tak province, northern Thailand, after a resurgence of violence between Myanmar’s military and rebel groups.

KhaoSod reports that as many as 8,000 people have sought refuge in Tak’s Mae Sot and Mae Ramat districts, whereas the Bangkok Post reports that the number is more than 5,000.

Clashes erupted on Wednesday when fighters from the Karen National Liberation Army, an ethnic rebel group, attacked two military-backed Border Guard Force (BGF) strongholds about 10 kilometres north of the China-backed Shwe Kokko new city project – about 3 kilometres from the Thai border. KhaoSod reports that soldiers from the People’s Defence Force (PDF) also battled against BGF soldiers.

Shwe Kokko is the site of a Chinese-backed US$15 billion real estate and casino mega-project notorious for illegal activity and drug trafficking, reports Radio Free Asia.

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Intense violence displaced thousands of residents in Myanmar who took little to no belongings with them as they either boarded boats or waded through waist-deep water to cross the river into Thailand.

Yesterday, soldiers from the Thai military’s Ratchamanu Task Force, government officials, police officers, and volunteers took food, drinking water, and medicine to provide immediate assistance to refugees in Mae Sot and Mae Ramat amid the sweltering heat.

Reports say that the sound of gunfire and explosions could be heard from communities on the Thai side of the Moei River. KhaoSod reports that violence had not stopped at noon yesterday, whereas RadioFreeAsia reports that a resident in Myawaddy said that fighting had calmed down by yesterday morning.

Thai authorities assisted displaced people with crossing into Thailand and are helping them to find temporary shelter in five locations, said Ye Min from the Aid Alliance Committee – a migrant worker rights organisation based in Thailand.

A representative from Thai NGO Friends without Borders told Benar News that she is worried that refugees will be deported back to Myanmar prematurely despite Thai authorities not barring them from entering the country initially.

No estimated figures regarding the casualties on both sides of the renewed fighting have been released so far.

Violence in Myanmar has continued since February 2021, when the military seized power from the democratically-elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The coup plunged the country into turmoil, sparking mass protests and an armed uprising from several anti-junta groups.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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