Fresh Myanmar conflict keeps Thai village on edge

Fresh Myanmar conflict keeps Thai village on edge

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MAE SAM LAEP: This week, a sleepy village in a remote northern Thailand hosted refugees fleeing Myanmar and became the center of local activities. This scene brought vivid memories to the Karen residents.

Hkara, 70, said she spent about 30 years crossing the Salween River, which marks the border, to escape military attacks on ethnic rebels in the Karen state in eastern Myanmar.

She decided to settle in the village of Mae Sam Laep in Thailand 20 years ago, which is a safer bet than Myanmar, and is still under full military rule that lasted nearly 50 years.

She told AFP: “I also come from the other side-I feel sorry for them, I am sad.”

Since last weekend, the Burmese military has launched air strikes in Karon State almost daily, targeting Karen National Union (KNU) strongholds-the first such attack in the region in 20 years.

Approximately 7,000 people fled their villages-around half were hiding in the jungle, and around 3,000 people crossed the river into Thailand.

Thai authorities returned most of them — while insisting they went voluntarily — but a handful stayed to get medical treatment for shrapnel wounds in a tiny local hospital.

The air campaign has left Hkara glued to her phone following the news.

“I knew (the attacks) would happen because of my experience,” she told AFP, adding that she had pleaded two weeks ago with family remaining in Karen to move away from the targeted areas.

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