Plan to evacuate Thais
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Plan to evacuate Thais

Aircraft fleet ready if Myanmar strife escalates

Thailand has formulated a plan to evacuate Thais stranded in Myanmar if the violence there worsens.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Tanee Sangrat said the Thai embassy in Yangon reported that protests against Myanmar's military rulers were continuing, though deliveries of food supplies had not been disrupted.

Thai authorities have been monitoring the situation closely and agreed the situation has yet to reach a point where Thais will have to be told to leave Myanmar, he said. But if the violence escalates, necessitating an evacuation, the embassy has a plan in place to bring Thais back home, he said.

Air force chief ACM Airbull Suttiwan has instructed Wing 6 based at Don Mueang airport to get a fleet of C-130 transport aircraft ready if the government assigns a mission to bring Thais in Myanmar back home if the violence there intensifies, said air force spokesman AM Thanat Chanamphai.

"The air force chief gave the instruction once the protests against the military coup began in Myanmar. The aircraft will fly off immediately at the behest of the government,'' AM Thanat said.

However, the Foreign Affairs Ministry will assess the situation in Myanmar and decide when Thais should be brought back home, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Tanee addressed the government's stance on the situation in Myanmar, saying the government was concerned about reports of rising casualties in the country. The government has asked Myanmar authorities to exercise more restraint in dealing with protesters, try to stop using violence and release more detainees.

All involved are attempting to find a solution through peaceful means and constructive dialogue, said Mr Tanee, who serves as the director-general of the ministry's Department of Information.

Thailand is working closely with other member countries of Asean to ensure a lasting peace for Myanmar citizens and restore normalcy to Myanmar as quickly as possible, Mr Tanee said. As for refugees fleeing the violence in Myanmar across the border to Thailand, he said Thailand has experience in handling influxes of refugees in line with humanitarian principles.

Injured refugees were allowed entry into Thailand to receive medical treatment at hospitals, Mr Tanee said. As of March 31, a total of 2,788 refugees fled across the border from Myanmar. Of them, 2,572 had already returned home, with 216 remaining on Thai soil, he said. Those who remained were mostly children, women and the elderly. Covid-19 testing was conducted on them and the results came back negative.

Mr Tanee said the government has no policy to push back refugees and they will be taken care of in line with humanitarian principles. Those who returned home did so voluntarily, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said he will visit refugees today in Mae Sariang district of Mae Hong Son to make sure they are given proper humanitarian help. State hospitals have been arranged to admit refugees and if there are more injured people than the hospitals can handle, field hospitals will be set up to take them in, Mr Anutin said. The influx started last week after the Myanmar army bombed territory controlled by the Karen National Union, forcing thousands to flee their homes.

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