Burmese flee to Thailand as new clashes erupt

MAE SOT, Thailand – More than 200 refugees crossed into Thailand over the weekend after clashes between Burmese troops and a faction of a Karen armed group broke out anew on November 27.

Villagers from Palu in Kawkereik Township began fleeing to Mae Ko Kane village in this border town as Burmese troops based in Palu fought fighters of Brigade 5 of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Saturday morning.

The refugees continued fleeing to Thailand into the evening.

Pa Lu villagers said Burmese troops shelled their village and one man, Saw Tun Shwe, 30, was wounded.

The refugees, who included pregnant women and children, stayed in farm huts or under trees just outside Mae Ko Kane.

VoiceTV reported that Thai authorities, led by Mae Sot chief district officer Kittisak Tomornsak, have begun relocating the refugee to Huay Mahawong Temple in Mae Kon Kane and plan to send them back when the fighting dies down.

Fighting between the Burmese army and Brigade 5 began shortly after the November 7 general elections in Burma.

The violence, apparently triggered by a protest staged by Brigade 5 against the elections, sent tens of thousands of people from the town of Myawaddy crossing the border into Thailand.

Brigade 5 broke away from the main DKBA earlier this year after its commander, Saw Lah Pwe, rejected the Burmese junta’s plan to transform ethnic armed groups into the border guard force (BGF).

Tensions between Brigade 5 and the Burmese military had risen since then, breaking out in hostilities the evening of November 7 when Brigade 5 fighters laid siege to Burmese units deployed around Myawaddy.

Most of the refugees in Mae Sot from the earlier fighting were repatriated by Thai authorities following assurances by the Burmese government that the situation was under control.

However, gunfire continued to be heard from inside Burma and soon another tide of refugees crossed over to Thailand, many of them seeking to avoid being used as porters by the Burmese army.

Prachatai.com, special to Dateline Philippines


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