Thais make peace broker offer to Myanmar junta, rebels in Myawaddy
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Thais make peace broker offer to Myanmar junta, rebels in Myawaddy

Myanmar refugees head home as they cross the Moei River back to Myawaddy on Monday. (Screenshot)
Myanmar refugees head home as they cross the Moei River back to Myawaddy on Monday. (Screenshot)

Thailand is ready to broker peace talks between Myanmar's military government and resistance fighters amid an increase in fighting in the key Myanmar trading town of Myawaddy opposite Tak's Mae Sot over the weekend.

Dr Prommin Lertsuridej, secretary-general to the prime minister, said on Monday the Thai government's stance on the Myanmar conflict is to advocate for a peaceful resolution and provide humanitarian aid.

"Thailand's role is to do all it can to help resolve the conflict in the neighbouring country, and such a role is also expected by the international community," he said when asked about the possibility of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin playing the role of the mediator.

Asked if Myanmar's government or ethnic minority rebels have signalled they will take part in negotiations, Dr Prommin said no direct demand has been made, but he noted that the Foreign Affairs Ministry is expected to work on achieving a peaceful resolution.

According to Dr Prommin, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara will inspect the border situation on behalf of the prime minister following the establishment of a government committee focused on the situation that Mr Parnpree chairs. Committee members are said to include senior government officials, including permanent secretaries from the Defence Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the Interior Ministry.

Dr Prommin said the government is prepared to cope with an influx of refugees fleeing the fighting in Myanmar, adding procedures are in place and will be modified as the evolving situation demands. He also echoed the government's warning that any spillover of the conflict is unacceptable.

Mr Parnpree said on Monday the committee will meet on Tuesday before the weekly cabinet meeting, and he will inspect the situation in Tak's Mae Sot district in the afternoon.

He said there is no need to open more temporary shelters for the refugees, as the current plan effectively handles the situation. 

About 3,000 people fled Myawaddy to Mae Sot over the weekend to escape the escalating conflict. About 2,000 of that number returned to Myawaddy on Monday. 

The command centre in Tak said two temporary shelters have been opened in Mae Sot and one in Umphang district. As of noon on Monday, the number of refugees in Mae Sot stood at 1,142 and 77 in Umphang district of Tak.

Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew, who visited Mae Sot Hospital on Monday, said six hospitals in Tak are prepared to deal with emergency situations following the escalation of the conflict.

He said Mae Sot Hospital activated an emergency response after 22 people were rushed there on Saturday night. 

Dr Cholnan said that a total of 41 injured people needed surgery, and they would be placed under the care of security agencies upon being discharged.

Myanmar forces sent aircraft to bomb several locations seized by resistance fighters, including the 275th battalion, which is about 3km from the border, late on Sunday night.

Rebel forces have reportedly set fire to several office buildings and seized the immigration and customs buildings at the 1st and 2nd Thai-Myanmar Friendship bridges. The checkpoints were closed on Monday by rebel forces.

A security source said on Monday the change of alliance by the Border Guard Force (BGF) under Col Saw Chit Thu, which was initially aligned with the junta, is causing alarm among Myanmar's military.

The BGF, which transformed itself into the Karen National Army (KNA), has 7,000 fighters, and among its weapons include anti-tank rockets and drones. It has reportedly asked resistance groups to fight for an autonomous Karen state.

Meanwhile, the House committee on military affairs said it would invite agencies concerned to explain measures being carried out to assist Thais affected by the fighting.

In its weekly update on international issues around Thailand in the past week, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said Thailand was considering whether to offer more humanitarian aid to Myanmar citizens.

Ministry spokesman Nikorndej Balankura said Thailand has attached importance to providing humanitarian aid to Myanmar citizens affected by the fighting. The government will also look at ways to increase humanitarian assistance by coordinating with international organisations and civil organisations that work along the border during the ongoing crisis.

Prommin: Seeks peaceful resolution (photo: Government House)

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