‘Heartless and illegal’: Thailand forces refugees fleeing junta air attacks back into Karen state

Thai authorities forced over 2,000 Karen refugees who fled Myanmar military air strikes back across the border into Myanmar on Monday, activists said. 

The “heartless and illegal act” by Myanmar’s neighbour followed reports that at least 10,000 people had taken shelter in the jungle in Karen state and another 3,000 had crossed into Thailand amid bombardments throughout the weekend. 

David Eubank of the Free Burma Rangers aid group said 2,009 people had been forced to return to the Ee Thu Hta displacement camp in Karen late on Monday afternoon, Reuters reported. 

“Thailand’s heartless and illegal act must stop now,” said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher on Thailand for Human Rights Watch, writing on Twitter.

Over 3,000 people from the villages of Maenuhtar, Kho Kay, and Ei Thu Hta began fleeing their homes at around noon on Sunday after the military launched airstrikes in the area.

Then on Sunday night the junta’s aircraft bombed Daypuno village, which sits in territory controlled by the Karen National Union’s Brigade 5. Several homes burned down and a villager was injured in the attack.

Fighter jets carried out three raids on the village between 11:40pm and 3:30am, a Karen villager from near the Thai border told Myanmar Now.

It is still unclear how many homes were burned down, he said: “There were no deaths, just one injured. That’s all we know since there’s been no further contact with them.”

On Saturday the junta’s armed forces launched air strikes against the headquarters of the KNU’s Brigade 5 in Mutraw district, using two fighter jets.

Three civilians were killed and eight were injured in those attacks, the KNU said.

The airstrikes began after troops from Brigade 5 overran the Myanmar military’s Thee Mu Hta base on Saturday morning, capturing at least eight soldiers. 

The military launched two airstrikes later in the day—one at 8pm and another at 11:30pm, a KNU official said. 

The KNU said over ten thousand people from seven villages were displaced due to the attacks. The group has repeatedly condemned the Myanmar military’s February 1 coup. 


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