Thailand said Friday it was providing humanitarian assistance to more than 1,000 people who this week fled military action in Myanmar, a day after Bangkok issued a rare statement expressing grave concern about the post-coup violence in the neighboring nation.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha had instructed all relevant relief agencies to give medical and other assistance to the 1,200 or so people who crossed the border amid military strikes in Myanmar states bordering Thailand, Anucha Burapachaisri, a Thai government spokesman, told reporters at a news conference on Friday.
“The prime minister has ordered all involved agencies … to assess the situation and to take care of displaced persons who fled to the Thai border, in accordance with international humanitarian basis,” Anucha said.
Prayuth had said on Tuesday that people crossing the border from Myanmar who didn’t come from areas gripped by post-coup violence ought to go back.
“If they are fleeing fighting [and] disasters with deaths on the other side … we will have measures to accommodate them and won’t push them back – if they were really in trouble,” he said on March 30.
A new group of 961 people from Myanmar had arrived since Thursday, joining 216 of their compatriots who were still in Thailand following an earlier influx from across the frontier over the weekend, Tanee Sangrat, the Thai foreign ministry spokesman, said during the same news conference.
Most of them are children, women, elderly, and patients, he said.
Close to 3,000 people from Myanmar’s Karen state had initially crossed into Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province, Thai officials said, after air strikes by the military.
Many of them went back in a few days and did so voluntarily, Thailand had said on Tuesday.
“We beg Myanmar authorities to exercise restraint to ease the violence and release more detainees. And may all sides involved join together to find a peaceful solution for Myanmar and the people of Myanmar through a constructive dialogue,” Tanee said.
A day earlier, Tanee made an unusually strong statement – for Thailand – calling for a halt to the violence, after a weekend of mass killings by the junta, in which the military and security forces killed at least 114 people on Saturday alone.
“Regarding the recent situation in Myanmar, Thailand is gravely troubled by the reports of more casualties among the Myanmar people during this past weekend. We reiterate our call for the exercise of utmost restraint and de-escalation of the situation.”
Myanmar security forces have killed more than 500 unarmed demonstrators protesting the military coup that toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1.
Burmese air strikes on Saturday also targeted villages controlled by Karen National Union (KNU) rebels who hold large swathes of territory in the borderlands with Thailand.
The Free Burma Rangers, a multiethnic humanitarian service movement, said Myanmar military jets continued to kill civilians on Thursday, Radio Free Asia, a sister entity of BenarNews, reported.
These air attacks raised to more than 20,000 the number of displaced civilians in Karen state.
Potential crisis in Myanmar’s Shan state
Meanwhile, a Myanmar group that helps people from the state of Shan, which also borders Thailand, expressed grave concern on Friday about the safety of thousands of internally displaced people (IDP) housed in camps.
According to a statement from the Shan State Refugee Committee, the army had announced it would “start attacking border positions of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA),” the NGO said in a statement.
“The news of possible attack has terrorized residents of the five IDP camps along the Shan-Thai border, who are mostly women and children. The IDP camps lie on exposed mountain-tops, within easy shelling range of the Burma Army camps surrounding them.”
Once these purported attacks begin, the displaced persons’ “only guaranteed safety lies on the Thai side of the border,” the NGO said.
Like the KNU, RCSS/SSA is also an armed, ethnic insurgent movement.
Also on Friday, Anutin Charnvirakul, Thai deputy prime minister, traveled to Mae Sariang district in Mae Hong Son province to deliver 2,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines to local officials who are in close contact with the Myanmar refugees.
“We brought 2,000 doses of vaccine here to Mae Sariang to cover 2,000 people. We also treated seven injured Karen and did not find any cases of COVID,” said Anutin, who is also the health minister, said at the press conference.
“If we find those who are ill, we will help them. If necessary, we will need to set up a field hospital. … If there is a [COVID-19] outbreak, we must take care of them.”
Source: Radio Free Asia