Thailand Readies for Refugee Influx Fleeing Myanmar Conflict

Thailand is ready to shelter 100,000 individuals escaping the conflict in Myanmar following the capture of Myawaddy, a town near the border across from Tak’s Mae Sot district, as stated by Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara.

After a discussion on Tuesday regarding the crisis in Myanmar with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, the chief of the defence forces, and the army commander, Mr. Parnpree reported that the nation is prepared to temporarily house refugees in secure locations.

Mr. Parnpree said, “If the number of people fleeing the conflict exceeds 100,000, the concerned agencies have assured us that they can still manage the situation,” adding that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is planning to engage in discussions with other nations for support if necessary.

This meeting was convened to evaluate the ongoing situation after Myanmar’s government requested Thailand’s permission for three special flights from Yangon to Mae Sot from Sunday to Tuesday to relocate Myanmar military staff and their families to safer regions.

Additionally, Mr. Parnpree discussed the decrease in border trade by 30% in Mae Sot and mentioned that although the Thai-Myanmar border is still operational, alternative routes to other border provinces like Ranong will be considered if the conflict hampers the transportation of goods.

Prime Minister Srettha has directed the creation of a committee he will chair, including members from the National Security Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and security bodies, as informed by the foreign minister.

A subcommittee is to be established to frequently review the situation and quickly communicate urgent matters to the main committee. The Thai embassy in Yangon has not reported any violence in Myawaddy, he noted.

Mr. Parnpree emphasized that the decision to permit Myanmar aircraft to land in Mae Sot was made for humanitarian reasons, responding to a request from the Myanmar embassy in Thailand focused on the transport of civilians and documents, not military personnel, arms, or financial assets from local banks.

The National Security Council reviewed the special flight request, ensuring the prime minister was kept informed, he further stated.

The Karen Information Center reported that the Sunday flight from Mae Sot to Yangon was allegedly used to move funds from the Myanmar Economic Bank and other local banks in Myawaddy back to Yangon.

The deputy spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, Thanawat Sirikul, revealed on Monday that Myanmar had cancelled the flights scheduled for Monday and Tuesday to Mae Sot.

Regarding potential peace negotiations in Myanmar, Mr. Parnpree conveyed Thailand’s commitment to facilitating dialogue, despite challenges.

Prime Minister Srettha expressed on X that Myanmar’s situation significantly impacts Thailand, emphasizing a government strategy to promote peace and stability for the benefit of both nations.

He assured that Thailand would extend humanitarian assistance to those impacted by the conflict, aim to lessen any adverse effects on Thailand, and establish a committee to ensure effective action.

Chanin Songmek, head of the Tak Chamber of Commerce, noted that the conflict in Myanmar has disrupted goods transportation from Mae Sot to Yangon since last November, compelling many to resort to alternative routes and smaller vehicles.

He explained that certain products, such as fresh food, now must go through Ranong, increasing costs for traders. He expressed hope for an early resolution to stabilize the border trade situation.