Thousands of Burmese have fled and continue to flee across the border to Thailand following fresh clashes between the Burmese military and the rebel army in the border towns of Myawaddy – a town in Karen state southeast Burma and close to the Thai border town Mae Sot – and the Three Pagodas Pass – a pass that links Kanchanaburi province in Thailand and Payathonsu town in Karen state. The clashes started in the evening of November 7, just right after the national election in Burma, and continued anew the following day. More people continue to pour in even at unofficial border checkpoints close to Myawaddy and witnesses estimate the number to have now peaked to thousands. There are currently close to 6,000 people, mostly women and children, now encamped at the airport in Mae Sot.
The clashes between the former pro-junta Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the government’s troops at border town Myawaddy erupted only a day after the national election, the first after 20 years, was held in Burma on Sunday. According to the Karen Information Center, troops from a breakaway faction of DKBA from Brigade 5 stormed into some Burmese government’s posts in Myawaddy to resist the authority’s orders for them to become Border Guard Force after the poll.The fighting then spread south of Myawaddy to Payathonsu, across the border from Thailand’s Three Pagodas Pass. Major Mo Shae from the DKBA said that his troops have now captured nine soldiers from the junta’s Border Guard Force and key strategic positions in Myawaddy township such as the communication office, a police station, a Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge guard house on the Myawaddy side, township office and a Military Affairs Security Unit Office (formerly Military Intelligence).
The fighting has now killed three people and injured some 20 others, border sources said.
Thai authorities and NGOs in Mae Sot have responded to the displaced Burmese who are seeking refuge in Mae Sot. While UNHCR in coordination with other NGOs has established an ad hoc system in assessing and responding to this crisis, there is still a great need to provide humanitarian assistance.
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