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Report: Myanmar refugees flee country as Thailand prepares for crisis

Myanmar’s military crackdown against civilians is leading to an exodus of refugees, according to press reports. File Photo by EPA-EFE
Myanmar’s military crackdown against civilians is leading to an exodus of refugees, according to press reports. File Photo by EPA-EFE

March 29 (UPI) -- Thailand could be preparing for an influx of refugees from Myanmar as Myanmar's military crackdown claims more casualties, including a record 100 people who died Saturday.

The Karen National Union, a rebel organization run by an ethnic minority group, said people from Myanmar were crossing the Salween river at the border into Thailand, the Financial Times reported Monday.

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The KNU operates as a semi-autonomous region within Myanmar and supports the pro-democracy protests. The head of KNU's foreign affairs department, Padoh Saw Taw Nee, said more than 4,000 people have fled into nearby jungles after attacks. Myanmar's military launched air strikes Saturday, the report said.

"If the air strikes continue, they may find a way to cross the border and seek refuge in Thailand," he said.

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Thailand's public broadcasting service, Thai PBS, said that approximately 3,000 people already has arrived in northwestern Mae Hong Son province in Thailand.

Earlier in March the broadcaster reported Bangkok has been "preparing facilities" to accommodate refugees. Among the facilities include four shelters for 2,000 refugees in Kanchanaburi province, the report said.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has refrained from criticism of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief and leader of the coup in Myanmar.

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The military leader is charged with killing at least 459 people since Feb. 1, and detaining more than 2,559, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Myanmar's military keeps soldiers under tight control through a system of constant monitoring, the New York Times reported Sunday.

Troops also are "brainwashed" through military education. Orders to kill unarmed civilians are often followed through without question, the report said.

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Some soldiers who disobey go into hiding. Tun Myat Aung, captain of the 77th Light Infantry Division, told the Times that he fled for reasons of conscience as the killings continue in the country.

"The message I want to give my fellow soldiers is: If you are choosing between the country and the Tatmadaw, please choose the country," he said.

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