Burma Partnership, Strengthening Cooperation for a Free Burma
Signup Now!
Join our mailing list for latest news and information about Burma.

Thailand and Burma’s Civil Society Organizations Express Concern to the Royal Thai Government about the Safety of Burmese Civilians Seeking Shelter from the Escalation of Conflict in the Border Area

By Forum of Burma’s Community‐Based Organizations,Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development Chiang Mai University,Friends of Burma  •  November 10, 2010

Armed conflict has broken out in several places along the Thai‐Burma border as a result of escalating tensions between the Burma’s military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), and armed ethnic groups that refuse to surrender their arms or join the SPDC’s Border Guard Force. On Sunday 7 November 2010, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) troops from Brigade 5 – a breakaway faction that refused to become a Border Guard Force – took up strategic positions and seized key SPDC offices in Myawaddy on the Thai‐Burma border opposite Mae Sot in Thailand’s Tak Province. The move was motivated by opposition to the election, as well solidarity with Karen and other opposition leaders, and protection of human rights including self determination of ethnic minorities. In the morning of Monday 8 November, fighting broke out between SPDC and DKBA forces. At about 9am, a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) was shot from the Burmese side and landed on the Thai side of the border in Mae Sot. Further RPGs were reported to have landed in Thai territory, although the exact number remains unclear. Four Thai civilians were injured and one was killed in the overspill of the conflict. The number of Burmese casualties so far remains uncertain.

By the afternoon of 8 November, thousands of civilians from Burma had crossed the border into Thailand to seek shelter from the fighting in Myawaddy. By 1pm, the Thai authorities had estimated that 5,000 refugees had arrived in the Mae Sot area; and by 7pm, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) and Thai authorities estimated that up to 12,000 refugees were gathered outside of Mae Sot. The refugees were provided temporary shelter by the Thai military. The Thai Red Cross, UNHCR, international non‐governmental agencies and local community‐based organizations were immediately mobilized to provide emergency food, water, sanitation, shelters and health care. By 2pm on 9 November, Thai military authorities began organizing the refugees in groups and preparing for their return to Burma, following reports that the SPDC Army had regained control of the town and forced the breakaway DKBA faction to retreat.

However, it is not certain at this point whether conditions in Myawaddy and its surrounding areas are safe for the refugees to return. It is anticipated that many of the people returned to Burma may return again to Thailand and that the numbers of refugees seeking shelter on the Thai side of the border may grow given the likelihood of further conflict inside Burma. Sporadic fighting also broke out in the wake of the elections between SPDC Army forces and the Karen National Liberation Army opposite Phop Phra in Thailand’s Tak Province as well as in Kawkareik in Karen State.

Meanwhile, tensions have continued to increase between the SPDC Army and other ceasefire groups – particularly the New Mon State Party, United Wa State Army, Kachin Independence Army, Shan State Army ‐ North and National Democratic Alliance Army – since the elections and the junta’s latest deadline for the groups to disarm, which expired on 1 September. All sides have been reinforcing their troops and stockpiling weapons in anticipation of outright conflict. Should the SPDC act against the ceasefire groups, the number of internally displaced persons inside Burma will significantly increase and there is a strong possibility of an even larger influx of new refugees into Thailand.

In the current situation and given the likelihood of further armed conflict, we call on the Royal Thai Government to continue to allow people who are fleeing fighting inside Burma and who are afraid to return due to the unsafe conditions, to remain in temporary shelters in Thai territory. We further appeal to the Royal Thai Government to continue to allow humanitarian organizations to access and provide essential assistance to temporary refugees on Thai soil as well as internally displaced persons near the Thai border inside Burma.

Download the open letter here.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Cynthia Maung, Mae Tao Clinic: +66 (0) 899615054

Naw Htoo Paw, Karen Women’s Organization: +66 (0)811824018

Wipawadee Panyangnoi, Friends of Burma: +66 (0)841175850

Tags: , , , ,

This post is in: Press Release

Related Posts
Burma Army Displays Blatant Disregard for 21st Century Panglong Peace Process
Karen State September 2016 Conflict: The Real Motivations Behind Renewed War
Burma Army’s actions in Karen State threaten to expand fighting, endangering peace process and displaced people’s return
Hpa-an Situation Update: Hlaingbwe and Paingkyon townships, March to May 2016
Legal Analysis Statement on current armed conflict in Karen State from the perspective of human rights and the rule of law vis-a-vis the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement