Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thai Army Chief denies presence of KNU soldiers among refugees

by Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) Thailand’s Army Chief has insisted that no armed group has entered Thai territory, after the recent clashes between the armed wing of the Karen National Union and the Burmese Army.

Thailand’s Army Chief, Gen Anupong Phaochinda, said that Karen villagers from Burma, had escaped to Thailand, but there were no reports that KNU soldiers had also fled to Pobphra district of Thailand.

“We raised surveillance to prevent infiltration by armed groups and also to prevent cross-border exchange of fire. Recently, the villagers were worried about their safety because some bullets went astray on the Thai side. When the local Thai villagers feel confident about their safety, they will return home,” he is believed to have said, according to a report in Thai newspaper, Matichon, on Monday.

Lieutenant General Thanongsak Apirakyothin, Thailand’s Third Army Chief, has said regarding the current conflict near the Thailand and Burma border, that he believed the battle would be over soon and in that case the Burmese Army and the rebels should remove their troops.

Thanongsak said that Thai villagers, who were affected due to the fighting were relocated to safer areas, which was provided by local authorities and security officials. “The number of refugees is estimated at 2,800 but not more than 3,000 people have been sent to shelters on the Thai side. Mainly they are women and children and none of them are suspected soldiers or porters from the armed group,” he added.

Thai health officials from Thasongyang districts of Tak province have set up a medical center, to provide health check ups for about 3,000 Karen villagers, who escaped from conflict-torn Burma, and who currently are in Mae Song and Mae U-Su villages, since June 2. About 50 refugees suffered from diaorrhea, malaria and respiratory diseases. The officials have asked for more medicine from the provincial health office, because it is unlikely that the refugees can return home in the near future due to the ongoing battle.

The European Union last week expressed “serious concern” over the mounting military offensive by the Burmese Army and its allies against the Karen National Liberation Army, which has resulted in large numbers of civilians in eastern Burma fleeing to neighbouring Thailand.

However, the Burmese military junta "categorically rejected" the European Union’s concerns over a growing offensive against the Karen armed group, state media said on Sunday.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper quoted the Burmese military regime's Foreign Ministry’s statement that said Myanmar was "disappointed with the politically motivated declaration of the EU presidency, which was released without a thorough study of Myanmar's insurgency problem".

"Therefore, the Ministry categorically rejects the factually incorrect declaration made by the EU presidency, relying on inaccurate information originated from the insurgent groups and biased media reports," it said.

15 June 2009

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