Shortly after the military coup in 2021, those tensions escalated again.
HOW THE KAREN ARE TREATED
Mr Uthai Payapthanakorn works for a Thai-Karen non-governmental organisation (NGO) which has seen firsthand how the Myanmar military is handling the insurgency.
“Previously, they mostly used ground troops, but now they are using planes to shoot and drop bombs, forcing our Karen brothers to flee,” said Mr Payapthanakorn.
The fighting has caused a fresh influx of people to cross into Thailand seeking refuge.
Footage by Thai authorities shows injured people caught in the crossfire being treated in nearby clinics.
But such care may not always be provided. Some observers said the Thai’s handling of refugees is inconsistent, if not contradictory.
What usually happens is refugees coming from Karen state are allowed to enter Thailand and stay, said Mr Patrick Phongaathorn, senior advocacy specialist at Fortify Rights.
However, their stay could be temporary, said Mr Phongaathorn.
“Thai troops have said once we can’t hear any firing of guns or any landing of bombs anymore on the other side of the border, you have to go back. But it’s not necessarily safe,” he said.
NO CONCRETE NUMBERS FROM THAI AUTHORITIES
In March 2021,Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha publicly denied anyone being forcibly pushed back into a conflict zone.
Two years on from the military coup, the United Nations refugee agency estimates that 72,000 people have fled Myanmar into neighbouring countries.
However, there are no concrete numbers from Thai authorities, given the country does not have an asylum system and does not provide refugees with any legal protection.
CNA’s attempts to seek clarity from the Prayut government to find out how it is handling the Karen refugees have gone unanswered.
They claim that there are currently no Karens seeking refuge in government-run temporary shelters.
Meanwhile, fighting is expected to intensify.
Myanmar’s military government is set to hold elections later this year, which it can only do if its ongoing conflicts with various ethnic armed groups are pacified, including with the Karen.
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