Thai leaders ready to increase humanitarian aid in Myanmar

Academics call on the government to extend visas for people from Myanmar who fled fighting there.
By Nontarat Phaicharoen for BenarNews
Thai leaders ready to increase humanitarian aid in Myanmar A woman and child walk into Thailand at the Tak border checkpoint in Mae Sot district, April 11, 2024.
Manan Vatsyayana/AFP

The Thai government is looking to expand humanitarian aid to Myanmar as fighting between junta forces and rebels intensifies across the border in Kayin state, a senior spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Friday.

The Thai government is seeking to deliver the aid to all parties in need equally, spokesman Nikorndej Balankura said, with relevant international organizations and civil society groups along the border expected to be invited to discuss the matter in the near future.

“As a neighboring country, Thailand supports dialogue for reconciliation, leading to peace, stability and unity in Myanmar. However, reaching that point must come from discussions and finding solutions among the various groups within Myanmar itself,” Nikorndej told reporters at a news conference. “Thailand is ready to talk to all parties if requested and is prepared to engage in discussions.” 

He confirmed that Thailand was ready to support efforts to quell the violence within Myanmar.

“Thailand supports dialogues for reconciliation in three main issues – peace, security, unity. We are currently considering ways to increase and expand humanitarian assistance by collaborating with international organizations within the next one to two weeks,” he said.

The Thai government is monitoring key events including clashes between junta troops and rebel forces, particularly those that could affect Thai citizens along the border if their Myanmar neighbors are forced to flee into Thailand.

The spokesman confirmed that the situation along the Thai side of the border remained normal, despite opposition forces taking control of the town of Myawaddy in Myanmar. 

Recently, the Karen Nation Liberation Army (KNLA), the Karen National Union (KNU) and the People’s Defense Force (PDF) announced that they had captured Myawaddy – a major trading hub along the border – spurring an influx of refugees into Thailand. 

Meanwhile, Thai Defense Minister Sutin Klungsang told reporters that security forces were on high alert to respond to emergencies.

“We have a border committee to oversee the border situation, as the army has military units at hand and our air defense is ready to take off. There are reconnaissance flights ready for air patrol and deterrence,” Sutin said. “We have the capabilities for protecting our air space and can dispatch fighter jets to intercept immediately, if there are any intrusions.”

19 TH-MN-border2.jpg

Since the Feb. 1, 2021, military coup overthrew the government of President Win Myint and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, the country has seen constant fighting between junta forces and those opposed to the military government. 

The fall of Myawaddy to anti-junta forces sent thousands of people toward the border. That caused Thailand’s armed forces to deploy soldiers alongside Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridges, which regulate both people and goods and connect Myawaddy to Thailand’s Mae Sot. 

The takeover of the town prompted Thailand’s foreign minister to call on the junta to refrain from further violence in the region. He said that people fleeing the fighting would be allowed into Thailand “on a strictly humanitarian basis,” RFA quoted him as saying on April 12. 

‘Burma Concern’

On Friday, a group called “Burma Concern” released an open letter signed by more than 150 academics and addressed to Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and relevant agencies, listing a series of requests. 

The letter called for the Thai government to not force the repatriation of Myanmar citizens because they could face persecution and torture.

It also called for the government to allow Myanmar citizens of fighting age to seek temporary refuge in Thailand. Many fled across the border to avoid being drafted after the Myanmar government introduced conscription regulations earlier this year. 

The letter said the Thai government should extend visas for students who are close to graduation and for colleges and other educational institutions to consider accepting other Myanmar students.

It also called for the Thai government to speed up the visa process for those wishing to enter the country and grant relief to Myanmar citizens who are unable to return to their homes. 

In February, Srettha’s government announced plans to establish a humanitarian safe zone and corridor for delivering aid to some 20,000 people across the border in Kayin state. 

The Thai government, in cooperation with the Thai and Myanmar Red Cross Societies, began delivering humanitarian aid last month.

A convoy traveled across the Mae Sot-Myawaddy Friendship Bridge No. 2 on March 25 to deliver 4,000 packages to Na Bu, and Thar Ma Nya and Paingkyon in Myanmar’s Kayin state.

Isa Gharti, a public policy researcher at Chiang Mai University, said if Thailand increased humanitarian assistance, it should coordinate with all parties to ensure a more comprehensive and equitable distribution. He emphasized the need for transparency in disclosing information about the distribution to build confidence from the international community.

“Additionally, Thailand should strongly push at the ASEAN meeting for negotiations with the Myanmar military government and the opposition to end the violence and restore the peaceful political process, including the establishment of a special ASEAN representative for Myanmar to serve as a mediator in the negotiations if possible,” Gharti told BenarNews on Friday.

Gharti spoke out after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) issued a statement on Thursday saying it was “deeply concerned over the escalation of conflicts” inside Myanmar and calling for an end to the violence.

The 10-member bloc pointed to the situation in the area of Myawaddy and in Rakhine, a state in western Myanmar that shares a border with Bangladesh and where civilians have been displaced by fighting between Arakan Army rebels and junta forces. 

“We call on all parties to take urgent steps to reduce the impacts of the conflict on civilians. This includes providing a safe and conducive environment to guarantee the timely and safe delivery of humanitarian assistance to all those in need in Myanmar without discrimination,” the statement said.

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated online news organization.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.