Thailand sees new wave of refugees and migrants from Myanmar: report – The Diplomat

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Beat ASEAN | Policy | South East Asia

A Thailand-based NGO says Thai police have arrested nearly 20,000 people trying to cross the border in the past five months alone.

Displaced people from Myanmar live in makeshift tents along the Thai side of the Moei River in Mae Sot, Thailand, February 7, 2022.

Credit: AP Photo

Yesterday, BenarNews published a short article about the new refugee crisis on the Thailand-Myanmar border, as thousands flee the conflict and economic dysfunction that has engulfed the country since the military coup of the Myanmar last February.

The article cites statistics from the Education and Development Foundation, a Thailand-based NGO, which say Thai police have arrested nearly 20,000 people trying to cross the border in the past five months alone. He claimed many have been found in desperate and life-threatening situations.

According to BenarNews, a spokesman for the NGO said the number of refugees detained by Thai police was increasing day by day, with many now facing food and shelter shortages. They added that a car full of people fleeing Myanmar drove the road into a ravine and two women died of asphyxiation after being left in a crowded car in the jungle.

Most of those trying to reach Thailand have been forced to flee their homes due to the conflict that has erupted between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) army which has since sprung up. the Coup d’Etat.

Some have also traveled to Thailand in search of work, a long-standing trend that has nevertheless worsened since the coup due to the near collapse of Myanmar’s economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 19 and the massive closure of factories. Last year, the International Labor Organization wrote that 1.6 million people in Myanmar had been forced from their jobs by a combination of COVID-19 and the coup.

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The remarkable and alarming finding of the Education and Development Foundation is that those who have turned up at the Thai border are not only from the adjacent Kayin and Kayah states, which for decades have produced refugee flows to Thailand, but also from Sagaing, Magway, and Mandalay regions.

This represents a reversal of the historical average, whereby most conflict and displacement in Myanmar has occurred in areas dominated by ethnic minorities, many of them on the periphery of the country, where ethnic minorities have led a long struggle for independence or autonomy from the central state. The coup has now brought this struggle, and the resulting savage counterinsurgency tactics, to once stable parts of the country.

Late last month, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA announced that 694,000 people had been displaced by the conflict and insecurity resulting from the military coup, bringing the country’s total number to over a million. This included an astonishing 336,600 in the Sagaing region alone.

While the figure of 20,000 arrests since January offered by the Foundation for Education and Development seems rough and difficult to verify, it is roughly in line with OCHA’s estimate that 40,200 people had crossed borders. to neighboring countries, particularly Thailand, since the coup – a figure that likely does not include economic migrants.

Even taken as anecdotal evidence, reports of renewed flight to Thailand offer another angle on the extraordinarily destructive conflict that has erupted since the coup. The streams of desperate people tell of a military ruling caste that not only wiped out the limited and partial gains of Myanmar’s opening decade in the 2010s, but dragged the country back to worse than it was. was on the eve of the opening.

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