Army denies supplying rice to Myanmar troops

Army denies supplying rice to Myanmar troops

Images posted by media claim to show shipments near border area held by Karen rebels

A Thai solider patrols an area along the border with Myanmar in Mae Sot, Tak. (Reuters Photo)
A Thai solider patrols an area along the border with Myanmar in Mae Sot, Tak. (Reuters Photo)

The Royal Thai Army has denied supplying rice to units of Myanmar’s armed forces, saying that any food being sent over the border was part of normal trade.

Myanmar’s military is facing international condemnation over the Feb 1 coup and bloody crackdowns on protests against military rule, in which nearly 250 people have been killed so far.

Thailand has voiced concern over the bloodshed and urged the junta to seek talks with protesters.

Direct Thai assistance to the Myanmar military would likely draw criticism from supporters of the ousted government that was led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The Nobel peace laureate has been detained in Myanmar since the coup.

Thai media reported that the army had supplied 700 sacks of rice to Myanmar army units on Myanmar’s eastern border, quoting an unidentified security official as saying it was on the orders of the Thai government.

“The Thai army is not supplying the Myanmar army and there has been no contact from the Myanmar army requesting help or demanding any assistance from us because they have their own honour,” Maj Gen Amnat Srimak, commander of the Naresuan Task Force, said in a statement.

“If there is anything, I think there is regular commerce at normal border crossings,” he said. “We are not blocking this if the conduct is not against the law and follows customs procedures.”

A government spokesman did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Myanmar’s army did not answer calls seeking comment.

Thai media said the Myanmar army units being supplied near the border had been cut off by forces of the Karen National Union (KNU), an ethnic minority insurgent group that agreed to a ceasefire with the Myanmar government in 2012.

A KNU spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. The KNU has thrown its support behind the Myanmar democracy movement and condemned the military’s coup and crackdown.

Thai media showed pictures of what appeared to be bags of rice being loaded into trucks at the border. Pictures seen by Reuters showed men, some in camouflage uniform, crossing into Thailand and having their temperatures checked.

Border trade between Thailand and Myanmar has been severely restricted since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Residents told a Reuters reporter the crossing shown in the pictures was not a normal trade route.

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