Thai FM visits border town following clashes in Myanmar

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Thai FM visits border town following clashes in Myanmar

Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A general view of Myawaddy seen from across the Thai side in Mae Sot on April 11, 2024. — AFP pic

MAE SOT (Thailand), April 12 — Thailand’s foreign minister arrived for a visit to the Myanmar border today, the ministry said, following days of clashes that have dislodged junta troops from their positions in a vital trade hub in the neighbouring country.

Fighting between Myanmar’s military and ethnic minority armed groups has rocked the border town of Myawaddy this week, sending people rushing into Thailand, from where the boom of artillery shells and gunfire could be heard.

The conflict in Myanmar sparked by the military’s 2021 coup regularly sends people fleeing across the two countries’ shared 2,400-kilometre border.

Foreign minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara will visit two “Friendship bridges” that link the Thai town of Mae Sot with Myawaddy, Thailand’s foreign affairs ministry said.

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The Karen National Union (KNU) told AFP on Thursday that displaced junta troops were sheltering near the terminus of one of the bridges on the Myanmar side.

AFP reporters said it appeared calm this morning at the Moei river that divides the countries.

A Thai soldier standing guard at the border told AFP today that he had heard gunshots and blasts in Myanmar during his night watch.

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Over the border a loudspeaker blared out Buddhist prayers.

Seven Thai armoured cars carrying soldiers arrived Friday morning to relieve the night watch, kicking up dust on the road.

A handful of trucks arrived on the Thai side from Myanmar over the “2nd Friendship Bridge”, AFP reporters said.

No trucks were seen driving into Myanmar.

One truck driver arriving at a checkpoint in Thailand told soldiers he was “happy”, adding “I thought I wouldn’t be able to get back.”

Thai military personnel keep watch from atop armoured vehicles along the Moei river on the Thai side, next to the second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge in Mae Sot. — AFP pic

Thai military personnel keep watch from atop armoured vehicles along the Moei river on the Thai side, next to the second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge in Mae Sot. — AFP pic

Battlefield losses

The complete capture of Myawaddy would be a humiliating defeat for the junta, which has suffered a string of battlefield losses in recent months that have prompted rare criticism of its top brass by its supporters.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun confirmed to local media late Thursday that junta soldiers “had to withdraw” from their base in Myawaddy, saying it was for their families’ safety.

He said that the junta and Thai authorities were in discussion over the soldiers, but did not give any details about how many were involved.

AFP has contacted the Thai government for comment.

During his one-day visit, Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara will also view preparations for a further influx of people fleeing fighting in Myanmar, according to the foreign affairs ministry.

On Thursday, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said the kingdom “won’t allow anyone to get in our airspace”, referring to the recent clashes in Myawaddy.

In 2022 Thailand scrambled jet fighters after Myanmar’s air force breached its airspace during operations against anti-coup fighters.

Earlier this week Thailand said it was prepared to accept 100,000 people fleeing from Myanmar. — AFP

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