Thailand’s foreign ministry said 2,267 civilians from Myanmar had entered Thailand on Friday morning since the latest conflict began.
Thousands of ethnic Karen villagers in Myanmar are set to travel to Thailand on Friday if, as expected, fighting escalates between the Burmese military and Karen fighters, joining those who have already escaped the turmoil. that followed the February 1 coup.
Karen rebels and the Burmese army clashed near the Thai border in the weeks following the dismissal by Burmese generals of an elected government led by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, displacing villagers from both sides of the border.
“People say the Burmese will come and shoot us, so we fled here,” Chu Wah, a Karen villager who has spent this week in Thailand with his family from Ee Thu Hta IDP camp in Myanmar, told Reuters news agency.
“I had to flee across the river,” said Chu Wah, referring to the Salween River which forms the border in the region.
The Karen Peace Support Network says thousands of villagers are taking refuge on the Burmese side of the Salween and will flee to Thailand if the fighting escalates.
“In the coming days, more than 8,000 Karen along the Salween River will have to flee to Thailand. We hope the Thai military will help them escape the war, ”the group said in a Facebook post.
Karen fighters on Tuesday invaded a Burmese army unit on the west bank of the Salween in a pre-dawn attack. The Karens said 13 soldiers and three of their fighters were killed. The Burmese army responded with airstrikes in several areas near the Thai border.
Limited access to borders
The Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman said 2,267 civilians had entered Thailand early Friday since the start of the last round of conflict. Thailand has stepped up its forces and restricted access to the border.
Residents of two Thai villages close to the border have also been displaced, ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said in a briefing, with 220 people seeking refuge deeper into Thai territory for their safety.
“The situation has worsened and therefore we cannot go back,” Warong Tisakul, 33, a Thai villager from Mae Sam Laep, a now abandoned settlement, said in front of the Burmese army post. attacked this week.
“The security officials will not let us, we cannot go back.
“Thousands of ethnic Karen villagers in Myanmar are set to travel to Thailand if, as expected, fighting escalates between the Burmese army and Karen insurgents.” “People say the Burmese will come and shoot us, so we fled here.” https://t.co/hjMLTqCDZG pic.twitter.com/NBxBbLHUO3
– Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) April 30, 2021
Clashes in the north
Violent clashes also took place in northern Myanmar between government forces and ethnic Kachin fighters.
The media have reported heavy casualties among government troops in recent days, but a spokesperson for the Independence Army armed group Kachin said he could not confirm any figures.
“There will be casualties on both sides because there is fighting,” spokesman Naw Bu said by phone.
The Karens, Kachins and several other armed groups have spoken out in support of pro-democracy protesters who have taken to the streets of cities across the country to oppose the return of military rule.
Security forces have killed at least 759 protesters since the coup, according to the activist group of the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners. Reuters is unable to confirm the number of victims.
The army has acknowledged the deaths of some protesters, killed after starting violence, he said. Several members of the security forces were killed during the protests, according to the army.
Meanwhile, several social media posts reported that several other young people were taken away by security forces on Friday without an arrest warrant.
Pro-democracy protests also continued across the country on Friday, including in the country’s largest city, Yangon and Mandalay.