Thailand braces for refugee influx
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Thailand braces for refugee influx

Govt will take 100,000 Myanma fleeing war

Parnpree: 'Border stays open for now'
Parnpree: 'Border stays open for now'

Thailand is prepared to accept 100,000 refugees fleeing fighting in Myanmar after rebel forces seized control of Myawaddy, a border town opposite Tak's Mae Sot district, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara.

Speaking after a meeting on Tuesday about the Myanmar situation between Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, the chief of the defence forces and the army commander, Mr Parnpree, said the government had made necessary preparations to accommodate an influx of refugees in safe areas temporarily.

"If the number of people fleeing the conflict exceeds 100,000, agencies concerned have assured us that they can still manage the situation," he said, noting the Foreign Affairs Ministry plans to hold talks with other countries to seek assistance if needed.

The meeting was held to assess the situation in the neighbouring country after the Myanmar government sought permission for Thailand to allow three special flights from Yangon to Mae Sot from Sunday to Tuesday to evacuate Myanmar military officials and their families to safe areas.

Mr Parnpree said the meeting also discussed the border trade situation after a 30% drop in activity in Mae Sot district.

He said the Thai-Myanmar border remains open, but if the fighting disrupts the transportation of goods, routes will be shifted to other border provinces, such as Ranong.

According to the foreign minister, Mr Srettha has also ordered the establishment of a committee, with himself as chair, comprising representatives from the National Security Council (NSC), the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and security agencies.

He said a subcommittee will also be formed to assess the situation regularly so critical issues can be relayed swiftly to the central committee. Citing the Thai embassy in Yangon, he said there were presently no reports of violence in Myawaddy.

Mr Parnpree insisted the government allowed Myanmar aircraft to land in Mae Sot district for humanitarian reasons, following a request made through the Myanmar embassy in Thailand.

He went on to say that the request was for the transport of civilians and documents, not military personnel, weapons or cash assets from state bank branches in Myawaddy, as reported by some media outlets.

The special flight request was reviewed by the NSC, and the prime minister was kept abreast of the situation, he added.

According to the Karen Information Center, the Sunday flight from Mae Sot to Yangon was reportedly used to transport money from the Myanmar Economic Bank in Myawaddy and other private banks in the town back to Yangon.

On Monday Thanawat Sirikul, deputy spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the Myanmar government cancelled the remaining flights to Mae Sot originally scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

When asked about possible peace talks in Myanmar, Mr Parnpree said that Thailand would do its best to promote dialogue regardless of any difficulties.

Mr Srettha posted on X on Tuesday that the situation in Myanmar is very important to Thailand. The government's policy on Myanmar is to ensure peace and stability in the neighbouring country for the mutual benefit of the people of the two nations.

He said Thailand will also provide humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict, mitigate possible impacts on the country and set up a working committee to ensure these measures are implemented efficiently.

Chanin Songmek, chairman of the Tak Chamber of Commerce, said the fighting in Myanmar had affected the transport of goods from Mae Sot to Yangon since November last year, with many operators forced to use secondary routes with smaller vehicles.

He said products such as fresh goods must be transported to Myanmar via Ranong, which adds costs for operators. He said the situation in the neighbouring country remains volatile, and he hopes it will improve as soon as possible to avoid hurting border trade.

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