Civilians continue to get caught in the crossfire between the Myanmar military and ethnic Karen forces as fighting rages on.
Temporary haven: Between Dec. 16 and Dec. 21, 4,216 villagers fled from a territory occupied by the ethnic Karen minority in Myanmar to enter Thailand, reported The Associated Press via ABC News.
- Thousands of the Karen people previously fled to Thailand in April, when the Myanmar government conducted airstrikes on the Kayin State (formerly known as the Karen State), a state in Myanmar where many of the Karen people reside.
- Whenever similar events happen, Thailand lets the escaping villagers seek refuge for a few days. They return to Myanmar after the violence subsides.
- According to Thai Defense Ministry spokesperson Gen. Kongcheep Tantravanich, 861 of those who fled have already returned. The rest, a total of 3,355 people, are temporarily staying in the district of Mae Sot in the border province of Tak.
- Tantravanich noted that the area has been “sealed as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19,” adding that the Thai authorities are testing the refugees for the virus.
- On Monday, Deputy Defense Minister General Chaichan Changmongkol said that Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, has ordered local authorities to give humanitarian aid to the refugees with assistance from the Thai military, reported ThaiPBS World.
- The Thai army has also issued a warning against Myanmar, stating that they will fight back should stray artillery shells fall into Thai territory.
A continuing struggle: The Karen people who, along with other minority groups, have been fighting for independence from Myanmar’s central government for decades, have faced periodic attacks from the Myanmar army over the years.
- Attacks reportedly escalated this year after the military junta took over Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in February, as NextShark previously reported.
- Last week, government troops reportedly raided Lay Kay Kaw, a village under the control of the Karen National Union (KNU). The KNU is a political organization that claims to be the representative of the Karen people living in Myanmar. According to independent local media, the Myanmar soldiers detained some of KNU’s members, including a National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker.
According to The Border Consortium, Thailand has been hosting Myanmar refugees for over 30 years now. Along the border between the two countries, there are currently nine main camps that house around 86,000 people.
Featured Image via Bloomberg Quicktake: Now