Refugees Return to Mese Township from Thailand Amid Conflict

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By Kantarawaddy Times

More than 600 refugees who fled to Thailand to escape the fighting have returned to Mese Township in Karenni State by 10 September, according to aid groups assisting them. Some returned voluntarily, while others were pressured by Thai authorities to go home.

U Banyar, the second secretary of the Karenni State Interim Executive Council (IEC), informed Kantarawaddy Times that there are several reasons why the refugees ended up back in Mese Township. “Some people faced difficulties in the temporary camp in Thailand because they didn’t have enough food, while others were deported by Thai authorities.” Banyar mentioned that the government has restricted the ability of international aid agencies to deliver humanitarian assistance to the refugees who fled to Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province.

Another issue is food shortages after Thailand restricted cross border food deliveries, Banyar pointed out. They cannot send food from other townships to the Mese area due to clashes on many of the main roads in Karenni State. Inflation in basic goods and services is also a problem.

All those who crossed the border into Burma have returned to their displaced camp in Mese Township. No one has returned to the town of Mese. There is no security in the township for the returnees, as clashes are still occurring, he said, and the regime frequently flies surveillance planes over the area.

About 5,000 people from Mese Township fled as several units from the Karenni National People’s Liberation Front, formerly part of the Border Guard Force, defected from the Burma army and, with support from the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force and other resistance groups, attacked the Mese Police State on 13 June.

An anonymous male volunteer assisting Karenni displaced villagers along the Thai-Karenni border area mentioned that they need to obtain permission from Thai authorities before they can send food to the displaced camps along the Burma-Thai border in Mese Township, where there are over 4,000 people. With more people returning in September, he is concerned they will run out of their remaining rations. The IEC is in discussions with international aid agencies to provide more humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict, the volunteer added.

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