Thailand says it has sheltered 500 Myanmar refugees, activists deny it
Bangkok, Mar 31 (efe-epa).- Thai authorities said Wednesday they have not expelled more than 2,000 Myanmar refugees fleeing military bombings in their country and have instead sheltered more than 500, something activists deny.
The exodus is due to the attacks by the Myanmar Army against civilians in the territories of the Karen guerrillas, which has shown its support for the civil disobedience movement against the military that took power during the Feb. 1 coup in the country.
In a statement, the Thai Foreign Ministry said the refugees it has allegedly given refuge, all from the Karen minority, are mostly elderly, minors and injured, of whom seven are receiving treatment in a hospital.
“These people were not able to return across the border yesterday. Despite their desire to return home, they expressed their fear of airstrikes. Authorities in charge will take care of this group and prepared their return whenever it is safe,” the ministry said.
It said that until Mar. 30, 2,897 Karen refugees crossed into the Thai province of Mae Hong Son, of which 2,352 returned to Myanmar and 545 stayed in Thailand.
However, the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) told EFE on Wednesday that the refugees, including some 1,100 minors, have been expelled to Myanmar (Myanmar), including the last 500 on Wednesday.
“It is not voluntary. The (Thai) soldiers say there is no danger in Myanmar. They have all been expelled,” said a KWO leader who did not reveal her name for safety reasons.
The activist said the information of the Thai government contradicts the actions of the army, which has cordoned off the border with barbed wire and does not allow the entry of journalists or NGOs.
Since Saturday, Myanmar military planes have dropped bombs and fired at several villages, killing at least three civilians, including a child, in an area controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU) guerrilla near the border with Thailand.
The Karen guerrillas attacked a Myanmar Army camp the day before, the same day the country celebrated Armed Forces Day, and at least 90 civilians were shot dead by police and soldiers in the streets.
Insurgent groups of different ethical minorities, which together represent more than 30 percent of the 54 million inhabitants of the country, have fought against the Myanmar government for decades with the demand for independence or greater autonomy.
The KNU is one of a dozen armed ethnic groups that signed a ceasefire in 2015 and were negotiating a peace agreement with authorities, although the dialogue broke down last month due to the brutal repression of protests against the junta.
More than 500 civilians have died, at least 100 of them last weekend, due to the repression of the protests and more than 2,600 people have been arrested since the coup, according to data from the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners of Myanmar. EFE-EPA