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Monday, July 22, 2024

Thailand prepared to receive 100k fleeing Myanmar

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BANGKOK – Thailand is prepared to accept 100,000 people fleeing Myanmar, Bangkok’s foreign minister said Tuesday, as fighting near a crucial border town rumbled on.

Thailand shares a 2,400-kilometer border with Myanmar, which has been embroiled in a civil war since the junta overthrew the democratically elected government in 2021.

In recent months, Myanmar’s army has faced its worst threat yet as fighting from anti-junta groups engulfs previously peaceful areas of the country.

“We have prepared for a while and we can accommodate about 100,000 people in Thailand’s safe area temporarily,” Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara said.

Thailand is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, and does not distinguish between refugees and other migrants.

Over the weekend there were local reports of intense clashes near Myawaddy town, across the border from the Thai town of Mae Sot.

Periodic surges in fighting along the long Thai-Myanmar border sees scores of people temporarily flee to the kingdom, before returning.

While there was no “mass evacuation”, people were coming over the border, he told reporters.

However, Parnpree emphasized the Thai-Myanmar border remained open, and that trade was still flowing through Mae Sot and into Myawaddy.

“No fighting, trade is still on, although it is decreasing,” he said, saying trade had dropped by some 30 percent in the last year.

Myawaddy is Myanmar’s third busiest land crossing, according to the junta’s commerce ministry, with some $1.1 billion in goods passing through over the last 12 months.

Earlier on Tuesday Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and high-level Thai officials met to discuss the border issue.

“The prime minister is concerned if the situation gets worse,” Parnpree said.

It follows the Thai government saying on Monday it had granted a request from the junta to land three “special” flights in the kingdom to repatriate people.

However, since the 1980s the kingdom has permitted tens of thousands fleeing Myanmar to stay in informal settlements near the border.

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