More than 2,500 Burmese were forced to flee and seek shelter in Thailand’s Tak Province amid the recent armed conflicts between a rebel Karen ethnic group, the Karen National Union (KNU), and the military regime in Burma.
About 2,503 refugees from Burma, 545 of whom are children, are being sheltered in Mae Sot, a district in Tak Province, according to Somchai Kitcharoenrungroj, deputy governor of western Tak Province.
The military regime ousted a civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in a February coup, sparking protests and clashes between the army and ethnic minority insurgents, such as the KNU, in border areas of Burma, also known as Myanmar.
On Dec. 15, clashes erupted between the KNU and the military regime in Lay Kay Kaw town, in which the junta had allegedly fired artillery shells at civilian residences. That followed the reported arrest of more than 30 people in a junta raid in Karen State’s Myawaddy a day earlier, The Irrawaddy reported. The fighting lasted for more than an hour, causing hundreds of villagers to flee to the north of the city, according to state media.
Tak provincial authorities said there was a clash between the army and the KNU on Dec. 16 about 500 meters (about 0.3 miles) from the Thai border, which led to an artillery shell landing on the Thai side of the border.
A Thai diplomat said the artillery firing had prompted the Thai military to fire “two smoke bullets” into Burma as a “warning shot” to the military regime to “stop shelling into Thailand’s territory,” according to Nikkei Asia.
On Dec. 10, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a statement that Gen. Min Aung Hlaing’s forces had “repeatedly failed to respect their obligations under international law” as more than 1,300 people have been killed, and 10,600 detained in Burma since the military seized power in February.
“In recent weeks, we have received multiple reports of villages being burned, including protected structures such as places of religious worship, and residential buildings,” OHCHR stated, calling for a “unified and resolute international response” to restore the country’s democracy.
It also cited a recent military attack in Kyimyindaing Township, Yangon, on Dec. 5, in which the security forces rammed a vehicle into unarmed protesters and fired live ammunition at them.
“These attacks are heinous, completely unacceptable, and disregard common values of humanity. They are also far from isolated,” OHCHR said.
Reuters contributed to this report.