Fall of Myanmar town to rebels sends people fleeing into Thailand

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Hundreds of refugees crossed over the river frontier between Myanmar and Thailand on Friday following the fall of a strategic border town to rebels fighting Myanmar’s military junta.

Some said they feared airstrikes by the Myanmar military after the rebel capture of Myawaddy, a town of around 200 000 people lying across the Moei River from the Thai city of Mae Sot.

“That’s why I escaped here. They can’t bomb Thailand,” said one woman, Moe Moe Thet San, a Myawaddy resident who stood in line at a border checkpoint with dozens of people in the heat. She had crossed the border with her young son.

Thailand’s foreign minister said on Friday his government was preparing for an influx of refugees and he urged the Myanmar junta to scale back the violence.

Thailand was also working with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to revive a stalled peace plan for Myanmar, Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara said.

“It is our neighbouring country and we don’t want to see violence,” Parnpree told reporters following a visit to Mae Sot.

“We want to see them talking with each other. They can use us as a broker if they want.”

Myawaddy was wrested from military control by anti-junta forces led by the Karen National Union (KNU) rebel group on Thursday.