Thailand sends refugees back to Myanmar as clashes continue

MAE SOT, Thailand: Thailand has sent over 600 Myanmar refugees who fled fighting between the military and ethnic rebels back across the border, according to a senior Thai official who said on Sunday (Dec 19) clashes were continuing.

Some of the refugees who reached northwest Thailand's Tak province told Reuters before they went back over the frontier on Sunday morning that they had volunteered to return. On Sunday afternoon, Reuters reporters on the Thai side of the frontier were hearing continuous gunfire.

Provincial Governor Somchai Kitcharoenrungroj had told Reuters in the afternoon: "More people are willing to go back as they are worried about their property there."

Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, urged Thailand not to rush refugees back to Myanmar.

"Everyone knows the Myanmar's military deliberately targets civilians with deadly force when it goes into the field, so it's no exaggeration to say these refugees are literally fleeing for their lives," Robertson said.

A spokesman for Myanmar's military junta did not answer his phone on Sunday. The army denies targeting civilians.

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The Aid Alliance Committee, a Thai-based Myanmar migrants group, said about 1,000 displaced people were camping along the Myanmar border at various points waiting to cross into Thailand.

Artmotion Asia

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