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2,500 Karen, Mon refugees cross Three Pagodas Pass

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Refugees of clashes between junta troops and a Karen splinter faction in Myawaddy, Karen State started repatriating from Thailand yesterday, but many remain and numbers are building on the Thai side of Three Pagodas Pass in Mon State where another unit of the splinter group has holed up.

refugees-sleep-mae-sot11sA fresh wave of about 2,500 Karen and Mon refugees crossed the Thai-Burmese border this morning to Sangkhlaburi, Kanchanburi province, fearing further fighting in the Three Pagodas Pass area, the Bangkok Post reported at around 11 a.m.

A Kanchanaburi border police chief Varathorn Witthayabamrung told the English-language daily newspaper that: “Police sources said the fighting could intensify as the Burmese troops want to retake all of Phaya Tongsu [sic, near Three Pagodas Pass] from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.”

“The DKBA forces have retreated to a condominium they are using as a base, only about 400 metres from Sangkhlaburi,” he was quoted as saying.

Thai authorities, staff from the United Nations refugee organisation, the UNHCR, and international NGOs, were reportedly assisting the refugees from the Burmese side of Three Pagodas Pass with basic necessities and medical treatment.

Meanwhile, about 310 miles (500 kilometres) to the north, about 20,000 refugees of fighting between the Burmese Army and another Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) renegade unit in Myawaddy Township started returning home from Mae Sot, Thailand yesterday and today, reports say.

An NGO worker in Mae Sot told Mizzima yesterday afternoon that the DKBA had withdrawn from Myawaddy and that the governor of Tak province, Thailand and his Burmese counterpart had given assurances it was safe for the refugees to return.

“People have been put into trucks and shuttled across, not necessarily the friendship bridge, but at a couple of crossing checkpoints south of the friendship bridge,” the NGO worker said.

The refugees staying in the border-patrol base opposite the Mae Sot airport were approached by Thai soldiers and were asked to return.

“At around 1:30 p.m. or 2 p.m. [on Tuesday] the soldiers asked them to go back to Burma,” Eh Twa, from the Mae Tao Clinic, which had been delivering blankets and supplies to the refugees, told Mizzima yesterday. The clinic provides free medical services to Burmese refugees and migrant workers in Mae Sot.

Some of the refugees however decided to stay in Thailand, but were today approached by Thai authorities and told to return, a representative of Social Action for Women, an organisation in Mae Sot that assists displaced women from Burma, told Mizzima.

“A lot of the refugees … left this morning, back to Myawaddy, then there’s [since] been some small skirmishes in Myawaddy, and we’re not really sure yet if the fighting is going to resume, or stay peaceful,” she said.

Some of the refugees were still expressing concerns about returning today.

“I was giving food out at a monastery down by where the last group of people to leave were. They were saying to my colleague that they felt like they didn’t want to go home and they wanted to stay on the Thai side, unless it was safe to do so, and then as we were finishing handing out food, the military came and asked us to leave, and probably got them to leave … everyone’s being asked to leave by the Thai authorities,” the Social Action representative said.

The refugees who were averse to returning yesterday had stayed in temples north of Mae Sot, where abbots had offered them refuge for the night.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 11 November 2010 00:12 )  

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