Myanmar villagers should camp alongside the Thai border

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Thousands of villagers in Myanmar were forced to live under makeshift tents on a river on the border with Thailand for fear of returning to their homes, which they said had been bombed by military air strikes, but were reluctant to take refuge across the border Al Jazeera reported online on Saturday.

Heavy fighting between the Myanmar military, which came to power in a coup last year, and resistance fighters killed or displaced thousands of civilians in the region and elsewhere.

Many have fled to Thailand, but the poor conditions in the refugee camps there have led some to return to the Myanmar side of the border and human rights groups have called for more help for the displaced.

Reuters news agency reporters on Friday saw an estimated 2,000 men, women and children living under tarpaulin in four different locations on the Thai side of the Moei River.

A woman from the camp, Sabal Phyu, 42, had waded across the loosely patrolled border to collect donated food and water bottles before returning to the Myanmar side of the river.

“We got good donations over there, but it was very crowded and it was difficult to live. We have more freedom here, ”said Sabal Phyu.

Sabal Phyu said she first entered Thailand with her husband and four children, but returned to the border area after being packed into an empty cattle shed with other refugees near the Thai city of Mae Sot.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, around 8,000 refugees from Myanmar are housed in emergency shelters in Thailand.

A spokesman for the Myanmar military government did not respond to calls from Reuters for comment.

When asked about the conditions of the camp in Thailand, the Thai government spokeswoman Ratchada Dhanadirek said that the country “looks after the refugees” and fulfills its obligations “in accordance with international human rights standards”.

The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, announced on Friday that it has not been granted access by the Thai government to the locations in Mae Sot where refugees are housed, nor has it been granted access to the Myanmar side of the border.

UNHCR has supplied mosquito nets, sleeping mats, blankets and face masks to aid humanitarian aid from the Thai authorities, said spokeswoman Kasita Rochanakorn.

Human Rights Watch’s assistant director for Asia said Thailand needs to do more to support the people displaced by the fighting in Myanmar.

“Thailand needs to recognize that its humanitarian commitments to refugees go beyond just letting some food and medicine packages across the border,” said Phil Robertson.

Elsewhere in Myanmar there have been reports of an alleged military attack on a village in Sagaing’s Northern Division.

Residents of Kan Gyi East village in Kanbalu municipality were forced to flee Friday morning when security forces reportedly beat residents and arrested at least 20 of them while burning houses and killing cattle, according to social media posts showing photos of the alleged. contain attack.

Al Jazeera has not been able to independently confirm the reports and the military has not yet commented on the incident.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military overthrew a civilian government led by Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, sparking protests and sporadic clashes between anti-junta militias and the army in the countryside.

According to the activist group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, more than 1,400 civilians and protesters have been killed by Myanmar security forces since the coup.

The military has said that these numbers, which are often quoted by international organizations, are exaggerated.

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