Royal Thai Army to set up refugee camps for those fleeing Myanmar

Vigil supporting Myanmar's democracy movement / Photo by Macau Photo Agency for Unsplash

With 100 people thought to be dead in Myanmar since the military took power last month, the Royal Thai Army plans to set up temporary camps for Burmese nationals fleeing the neighbouring country to escape political violence. Some say the actual death toll is much higher.

Refugee camps will be set up in Ranong and Chumphon which border Myanmar’s southern-most region. Most of the violence has been around 1,300 kilometres north in Yangon where the military regime recently imposed martial law in 2 townships.

The shelters will be temporary, commander of the Thep Satri Task Force Santi Sakuntak told the Bangkok Post. He says the migrants will be sent back to Myanmar once the situation eases.

The Thai-Myanmar land border stretches 2,400 kilometres. It’s unclear why just 2 camps are being set up in the south rather than at major border towns like Tak’s Mae Sot district.

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Last week, the Human Rights Watch called on Thai authorities to stop expelling asylum seekers at the Myanmar border, citing a recent incident where Thai officers caught 8 Burmese people who were crossing the Ruak River from the border town Tachileik and sent them back to their home country.

Thailand’s officers have been cracking down on migrants long before the military coup in Myanmar due to concerns about the potential spread of Covid-19. Patrol along the Myanmar border tightened back in December after hundreds of Burmese migrants at a fishing hub in Samut Sakhon tested positive for the virus, sending Thailand into a wave of infections.

The organisation’s director for refugee and migrant rights, Bill Frelick, says Thai authorities should stop pushing back people who are fleeing Myanmar.

“The Thai government should immediately allow all asylum seekers fleeing the violent crackdown in Myanmar access to desperately needed protection.”

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Human Rights Watch

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