Fierce fighting between the Myanmar military and armed ethnic rebels has forced about 5,000 people to flee across the country’s border into Thailand this week, officials and media said on Thursday.
The clashes broke out when rebels in the southern Karen state attacked a military border guard outpost, according to reports in Thailand’s Khaosod English newspaper and BBC Burmese.
Myanmar’s military government, which overthrew an elected government in a 2021 coup, is grappling with armed insurgencies in large areas of the country and has faced global condemnation for its lethal crackdown on dissent and pro-democracy movements.
About 5,000 people, many of them women and children, had crossed into Thailand’s Tak province, and taken refuge in temporary shelters set up by local residents, according to Thai officials and an aid worker.
“Many people crossed the border since yesterday and some are still also waiting on the Myanmar side to cross. People don’t have enough drinking water or any toilets for now,” a charity worker, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
Thailand said its air force was monitoring the situation and was “ready to send patrol flights if Thai airspace is violated”.
“The Thai-Myanmar border command centre in Tak province is working together with relevant agencies to provide safety and give assistance in accordance to humanitarian principles to all those who fled the fighting in Myanmar,” the provincial government said in a statement on Thursday.
A Myanmar junta spokesperson did not answer phone calls seeking comment.
Fighting has raged in many rural areas across Myanmar, and rights groups accuse the military of targeting civilians in air strikes and ground operations. Last week, at least eight civilians, including children, were killed in an air strike on a village in northwest Myanmar.
Myanmar’s military rulers say they are fighting “terrorists” and deny they are targeting civilians.