Myanmar Villagers Flee To Thailand As Border Clashes Rage

Myanmar Crisis

Almost 2,500 Myanmar villagers have fled to Thailand amid continuing clashes between Myanmar troops and Karen National Union (KNU) rebels, according to Thai officials.

Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapat, deputy police chief in charge of security, said yesterday the number of Myanmar people taking shelter in tambon Mae Tao of Tak’s Mae Sot district rose to 2,476 since a fresh round of fighting started on Thursday.

He said police from all units have been instructed to work closely with security forces in stepping up security along the Thai-Myanmar border and making sure that Myanmar villagers remain in the shelter area.

Pol Gen Kittiprapat said humanitarian assistance is being provided and the villagers are expected to return to their homes as soon as border tensions ease.

Troops from the 14th Infantry have been deployed to beef up security along the border as a result of the clashes while Thai villagers along the border are being advised to evacuate until the fighting stops.

Thai authorities have reportedly asked Myanmar troops in Myawaddy opposite Mae Sot district to exercise caution after two stray shells landed on Thai territory near residential communities.

Army spokesman Gen Santipong Thammapiya also said yesterday the Myanmar villagers were provided assistance and the province has a response plan to deal with the influx after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha called on agencies concerned to be prepared if fighting escalated.

The first wave of Myanmar villagers fled to Thailand on Thursday after the fighting between the military and KNU broke out in Myawaddy. The initial exchange of gunfire reportedly lasted for several hours.

It was reported that more than 1,000 people fled the initial fighting across the border to Mae Sot on Thursday before they were moved to the shelter centre about 6km from the border for safety.

According to border sources, many more have since followed and the situation remained tense yesterday and Myanmar security forces were combing the area to flush out rebels hiding along the border.

Myanmar was plunged into turmoil when the military ousted a civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on 1st February, triggering protests in cities and sporadic clashes in the countryside between anti-junta militia and the army.