Food supply to junta 'just logistics'

Food supply to junta 'just logistics'

army denies backing coup

The Third Army Region yesterday defended sending food supplies to Myanmar troops, saying it was part of an arrangement by the Township Border Committee (TBC).

The army came under fire in the wake of reports that it procured food and essential goods from Thai business operators for Myanmar soldiers.

Lt Gen Apichet Suesat, chief of the Third Army Region, said the arrangements had nothing to do with the political crisis in the neighbouring country. Myanmar troops purchased goods from Thai operators via the TBC for logistical reasons.

"It's more convenient for them to buy from Thai vendors. And it is also good for the local economy because the goods are supplied by Thai vendors," he said. He said Myanmar troops have been buying food from Thai vendors under the TBC arrangement for several years.

Lt Gen Apichet said the TBC is part of mechanisms to maintain relationships between the two countries and resolve border issues at the provincial level. He said the panel does not engage in political issues.

Meanwhile, Thai authorities in Mae Hong Son province are bracing for a possible influx of people fleeing escalating violence in Myanmar with reports that at least 500 may seek refuge in Thailand.

It is reported that several hundred people are sheltering in Ban Huay Sai in Loikaw of Kayah state and near an outpost controlled by Karen troops opposite Mae Suay Ou in tambon Phabong in Muang district.

On Friday, a group of five people crossed the Thai-Myanmar border via Mae Hong Son's Ban Sao Hin pass in Mae Sariang district to take shelter in Thailand. Among them are the wife of a former senior official of Kayah state and a 10-year-old boy. Kayah state is a bastion of the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the biggest ethnic armed groups in Myanmar.

The group of five on Friday were reported to have met Thai authorities led by Sangkhom Khadchiangsaen, chief of Mae Sariang district. They were taken to arranged accommodation after they were screened for Covid-19 infections.

The KNU is one of a few ethnic minority groups along with the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) which has announced they are supporting protesters and villagers opposed to the coup led by the "Tatmadaw", as Myanmar's junta is known.

Authorities in the districts of Khun Yuam and Mae Fah Luang are also making arrangements for those who may cross the border to escape the deteriorating situation inside the country.

Col Samrit Chattharawattanasakul, a senior officer attached to Pha Muang Task Force, has rehearsed an action plan with local officials to deal with an influx of Myanmar people in case violence erupts in Tachilek province opposite Chiang Rai's Mae Sai.

Officials in Mae Sai district have set up four shelters at Wat Koh Sai, Wat Piyaporn, Thesaban 1 School and Wat Phathamjom in the event of a surge of people fleeing violence.

Under the plan, officials will be sent to escort those who cross the border and take them for Covid-19 testing before they are taken to their assigned shelters.

Meanwhile, police in Kanchanaburi's Sangkhla Buri yesterday called on procurers of illegal migrant workers to cease their activity as the number of detainees rose.

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