As the situation in Myawaddy improves, Burmese refugees staying in the Three Pagodas Pass area in Kanchanaburi’s Sangkhla Buri district still fear for their lives.
Burmese women feed their children in an open-air shelter at Ban Songkaria school at Three Pagodas Pass in Kanchanaburi’s Sangkhla Buri district. SOMCHAI POOMLARD
Refugees in fear of lives
Burmese villagers plead to stay in Thailand
"I want them to stop fighting. But I am afraid to say anything," said a 36-year-old Burmese woman as she cared for her young children on the Thai side of the border.
She was among more than 4,000 Burmese who fled the clashes between Karen rebels and Burmese troops in Phaya Tong Su town in Burma on Monday to seek refuge in a Thai village near Three Pagodas Pass.
"I've been so scared and sad. I have no idea how long the fighting will continue," she said as she sat with many other Burmese under shady trees in a field next to a school compound which is providing them with temporary shelter.
Other refugees shared similar fears after hearing last night of an order from the army to send them back home.
The fact that such violent and lethal fighting had not happened near their homes for almost 20 years meant they were uncertain about their safety and security back home, they said.
The clashes have shocked and frightened people living on both sides of the border. One nine-year old died after a grenade exploded in the Burmese village. She was rushed across the border into Thailand in a desperate but futile attempt to save her life. Seven others were injured in the explosion.
The sound of gunshots and grenade attacks across the border have been heard in the Thai village since Monday. On Tuesday, some mortar shells fell on a Thai resort at the village, injuring two men.
The latest mortar attack was heard about 4am yesterday, making the refugees fearful about the volatile situation.
However, Thai authorities unexpectedly decided last night they would have to return to their homes.
Many of them said it was too soon for them to go back, said Wanchai Yindee, 52, a bilingual Burmese native who has lived in Thailand and volunteered to help the refugees.
Many refugees told him of frightening experiences which were still too fresh in their minds, Mr Wanchai said.
Some said they did not want to return until they were sure that it was safe.
Word had filtered through from other Karen in the area that the fighting had not died down and their safety could not be guaranteed, he said.
Pong, a male refugee aged 52, said he saw many dangerous incidents in his town and was too afraid to go back.
"I heard gunshots for half an hour on Monday. Some parts of the forest and a gas station were burnt down," he said.
The threat of being caught up in the fighting had kept him awake every night even though he felt safer on Thai soil.
Jo, 37, said he saw two houses destroyed by grenade attacks and saw Karen fighters running around his village.
Others said they heard at least 10 mortar shells explode before they decided to flee.
The refugees trekked the long distance over land and streams to reach Thailand. A few villagers stayed in the village to guard their properties.
Despite the reluctance of the refugees to go home, Sangkhla Buri district chief Chamras Kongnoi insisted Thailand had made its decision to return them based on confirmation by the Burmese army that the situation had returned to normal.
"A top Burmese military officer informed us the Burmese army has reopened the border and asked us to send the refugees back home," he said, adding he was told a ceasefire had been agreed by both sides.
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refugee – someone who leaves their country or living place, especially during a war or other threatening event ผู้ลี้ภัย
plead – to ask for something in an emotional way ขอร้อง, วิงวอน
border – the official line separating two areas, regions or countries เขตแดน อาณาเขต
fled (past of flee) – escaped; left an area very quickly because of a danger there หนีไป
clash – a fight or battle between two groups of people การปะทะกัน
rebel – of people who try to remove a government or leader by force ผู้ก่อกบฏ
troops – soldiers, especially in large numbers กองทหาร
seek refuge – to try to find a safe place where you can protect yourself from something dangerous or threatening หาที่หลบภัย,หาที่ปลอดภัย
scared – frightened, or worried ตระหนก, ตกใจ, หวาด, ผวา
compound – an area in which a group of buildings stands บริเวณ
temporary – done or used for only a limited period of time, i.e., not permanent ชั่วคราว
shelter – a place where people are protected from danger or bad weather; a temporary place to stay ที่หลบภัย ที่พักชั่วคราว
violent – involving the use of physical force, with the intention of causing damage to property or injury or death to people รุนแรง
lethal – very dangerous and able to kill you เป็นอันตรายถึงชีวิต
uncertain – not feeling sure about what to do, whether something is true etc ไม่แน่ใจ, คลางแคลงใจ
security – a feeling of confidence and safety, or a situation in which you can feel confident and safe ความมั่นคง, เสถียรภาพ
grenade – a small bomb that someone throws or fires from a gun ลูกระเบิดเล็ก
desperate – in an extreme or worried way อย่างเต็มที่
futile – having no effect or achieving nothing; unsuccessful เปล่าประโยชน์
injured – hurt in an accident or attack ซึ่งได้รับบาดเจ็บ
mortar – a large short gun that is used for firing bombs and shells over short distances ปืนครก
shell – a weapon consisting of a metal container filled with a substance that explodes, fired from a large gun กระสุนปืนใหญ่
injure – to hurt or cause physical harm to a person or animal ทำให้บาดเจ็บ, ทำร้าย
volatile – of something that may change suddenly or become more dangerous ที่ปะทุได้ง่าย
authorities – people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
bilingual – able to speak two languages extremely well สามารถพูดหรือเขียนได้สองภาษา
native – someone who was born in a particular place ชาวพื้นเมือง
volunteer – to do some work without being paid อาสา
filter through – (of news or information) to reach people gradually
guarantee – to promise someone that they will have something or will get something รับประกัน, ค้ำประกัน
incident – something that happens, usually something bad เหตุการณ์
trek – to walk a long distance เดินทางช้าๆ
stream – a small narrow river ลำธาร, ธารน้ำ, สายน้ำ
guard – to watch a place carefully to protect someone from attack, to prevent something from being stolen, or to prevent someone from escaping เฝ้ายาม, ดูแล, รักษาความปลอดภัย
reluctance – unwillingness to do something ความไม่เต็มใจ,ความไม่สมัครใจ
insist – to keep saying very firmly that something is true ยืนกราน ยืนยัน
ceasefire – an agreement to top fighting for a period of time, especially in order to discuss permanent peace การหยุดยิง
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