Once again, thousands of Myanmar are fleeing to Thailand


Status: December 18, 2021 4:19 a.m.

In Mae Sot, a Thai town on the border with Myanmar, more and more people are seeking refuge from attacks by the military junta. Grenades also hit the Thai side.

By Lena Bodewein, ARD-Studio Singapore, currently Thailand

A river on the border from Thailand to Myanmar. A barely-ending line of people has crossed it with sacks and bags and is now making its way towards the border town of Mae Sot. The soldiers on the Thai side let the refugees pass. In the beginning they sent them back to Myanmar by force of arms, back into the danger posed by the murderous military.

Lena Bodewein
ARD-Studio Singapore

Across the border, in the Karen ethnic minority area, fighting has intensified. In the past few days, according to observers, the military has also invaded protected areas: areas that should be considered safe according to the national ceasefire agreement between the army and ethnic groups.

Injured after army fire

Suddenly detonations can be heard at the border river. Myanmar’s army kept firing at the area in which the refugees were moving, Thursday and Friday there were injured people who were about to cross the river, and a mortar shell also struck on the Thai side, reports the Thai PBS television channel. A sugar cane plantation caught fire in a village on the border. The border troops officially warned Myanmar’s military to be cautious and threatened that the Thai military would intervene if the country’s sovereignty was violated.

“We were monitored in our hometown, we were no longer safe,” says a young woman. She left Myanmar four months ago with her sister’s family. Their father had been arrested and they couldn’t hide so as not to endanger others. “So we crossed the river in a small boat, then had to hide in a village and walk through a mountainous forest at night. We carried the children on our backs. So that they weren’t afraid, we told them it was an adventure trip , a night hike – and for once they should be very quiet. “

Refugees come to huge camps

You came to Mae Sot safely. In the past few days alone, 1,500 people have fled across the border. Thai soldiers guard them in a huge camp.

“There are now 3,500 war refugees here, only 1,500 of them can camp under a roof, the others need blankets, tents, everything,” says one helper. Barbed wire is rolled out to separate the newcomers from the other people, a pickup truck brings tarpaulins, dogs and children play in the dirt.

Mountains of donations are being collected in the nearby monastery: instant soups, children’s clothing, diapers, water, juice and biscuits. Helpers cook warm food for the refugee camp in huge pots.

Help for compatriots

In and around Mae Sot, many migrant workers who once came to Thailand from Myanmar live illegally in search of a better life. Now they are doing what they can for their compatriots. Phoe Thingyan organizes donations and meals. At the age of 17 he fled the dictatorship of Myanmar to Thailand, more than 25 years ago. Since then he has stayed in the border town of Mae Sot, toiled in factories as a migrant worker and started a family. Now he is helping those who are fleeing from the new edition of the dictatorship.

“This is the third time the revolution has happened, after 1999 and 2007, but this time the people are united in a way I’ve never seen them before. The new generation is leading the uprising well.” And that’s why, he says, he is optimistic that they will defeat the dictatorship.


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