Thai authorities on Saturday temporarily closed a border checkpoint between Mae Sot district of Tak province and Myawaddy in Myanmar, following clashes between the Myanmar military and opponents of the junta.
The closure has affected many Thai and foreign travellers planning to visit Myanmar. Thai nationals who had crossed earlier in the day were allowed to re-enter, but they are barred from returning to Myanmar for the time being.
According to Thai authorities, a Thai national was injured in skirmishes on Friday between Myanmar soldiers and People’s Defence Forces (PDF) and the Karen National Union (KNU). He was later identified as Sitthinon Muangsuk, 55.
Tak locals who travel frequently to Myanmar for business purposes confirmed reports of the clashes. The situation has left over 300 cargo trucks that were ready to deliver goods to Myanmar stranded on the Thai side. The Myanmar army has reportedly laid explosives on its side of the border in response to the rebel activity.
With PDF forces reportedly surrounding a business district in Myawaddy, the Myanmar military has brought in fighter planes and helicopters to suppress their advance. Despite the danger, Tak border authorities have reassured the public that the closure will only be temporary until the situation improves.
On Wednesday, authorities detained 83 illegal migrants from Myanmar and seized military equipment and medical supplies during a raid on buildings in Mae Sot.
The raid followed intelligence reports that the premises had served as a shelter for members of anti-regime groups in Myanmar, particularly members of the PDF who had fled across the border.
The status of those detained has not been updated, but Amnesty International on Friday urged Thai authorities not to deport them.
“Thai authorities must not deport Myanmar nationals back to a country where they could face imprisonment, torture, and even the death penalty at the hands of the Myanmar military,” the human rights group said in a statement.