Thailand braces for refugees as thousands flee Myanmar airstrikes

Thailand braces for refugees as thousands flee Myanmar airstrikes

Thailand is bracing itself for thousands of refugees who are fleeing Myanmar after its military launched several airstrikes near its border in recent days, further escalating the military crackdown after the coup.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said on Monday that his government is getting ready for a potential flood of refugees amid the recent strike attacks, The Associated Press reported. 

“We don’t want to have mass migration into our territory, but we will consider human rights, too,” Prayut said. 

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A number of migrants have already sought shelter in Thailand, to which the prime minister said, “We have prepared some places, but we don’t want to talk about the preparation of refugee centers at the moment. We won’t go that far.”

Myanmar’s military has conducted the strikes in a region filled mostly with ethnic Karen people, including three strikes overnight, the AP reported, citing Dave Eubank, a member of the humanitarian relief agency the Free Burma Rangers. 

Sunday’s strikes resulted in a severe injury to a child but no fatalities. Other strikes over the weekend displaced 2,500 people who headed into Thailand, specifically its Mae Hong Son province. 

Besides those who headed to Thailand, the Free Burma Rangers estimate that about 10,000 people are displaced in Myanmar’s Karen state.

The military’s attacks could have been a response to the Karen National Liberation Army’s offensive that allegedly took over a military outpost on Saturday, captured eight soldiers and killed 10, the AP noted, citing Thoolei News. 

Myanmar’s junta also bombed a village in the district on Saturday night and struck a Karen guerrilla position on Sunday.

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The chaos in Myanmar comes after the military launched a coup against the government led by Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, before officials were slated to take their positions after the November election. Military leaders asserted the elections were fraudulent, which the country’s election commission has dismissed. 

Protests have erupted within the country in response, leading to a harsh military crackdown. On Saturday, more than 100 demonstrators were killed in the deadliest day of demonstrations so far. Military forces also fired at a funeral on Sunday for one of the victims. 

As of the weekend, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners estimates at least 459 people have been killed since the coup, with the actual number expected to be much higher, according to the AP.