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Fighting subsides in Myanmar

A substantial loss of territory and control by the military has enabled the release of many human trafficking victims
Myanmar nationals walk on the Thailand-Myanmar Friendship Bridge to cross over into Thailand on April 12.

Myanmar nationals walk on the Thailand-Myanmar Friendship Bridge to cross over into Thailand on April 12. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 16, 2024 09:26 AM GMT
Updated: April 16, 2024 10:05 AM GMT

Heavy fighting near Shwe Kokko – a notorious organized crime hub – on the Thai border had subsided by April 12 after some 500 troops loyal to Myanmar’s ruling junta reportedly dispersed with some surrendering to forces aligned with the Karen National Union (KNU).

A substantial loss of territory and control by the military has also enabled the release of scores of human trafficking victims who were tricked into accepting false jobs and trapped amid the fighting while being forced to work online scam operations from casinos near the Thai border.

Reports say eight Sri Lankans and two Laotians had been rescued from Myanmar but a further 48 Sri Lankans and another 14 Laotians remained trapped in Myanmar where authorities are negotiating their release with backing from their respective embassies.

A source with the People’s Defence Force (PDF) said Myawaddy, on the Thai border, was quiet and under KNU control while fighting had also subsided 20 kilometers further north near Shwe Kokko on the Moei River, where the military had dispatched a column of reinforcements.

“There are still some skirmishes around Shwe Kokko but it is low level. There was a week of intensive fighting but it is much quieter now. There are no aerial bombardments by the military and both border bridges from Mae Sot in Thailand to Myawaddy are open,” she said.

One report said the column of 10 armored personnel carriers included 22 trucks with about 20 soldiers in each plus heavy armament had dispersed while a “mass” surrender of military troops to the KNU was reported from further south in Dawei District.

The KNU is one of about 20 ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) fighting alongside the PDF – the armed wing of the opposition National Unity Government (NUG) – who have opposed the junta’s takeover of the country following a coup d’etat in early 2021.

Fighting was also reported from western Rakhine state where at least 25 Rohingyas were killed and thousands forced to flee their homes over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Northern Irish peace activist and Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire has nominated the UK-exiled Myanmar human rights activist and genocide scholar Maung Zarni for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The nomination was made public amid Myanmar’s traditional New Year this week by the Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia and the Free Rohingya Coalition.

They said the nomination was based on Zarni’s “impactful and tireless activism for peace and harmony among human communities over three decades” including his work in regard to the slaughter of the Rohingya in 2017 which he quickly labeled a genocide.

Maguire’s nomination letter also highlighted Zarni’s activism for democracy in Myanmar and for “non-violence campaigners for peace and freedom from Tibet, East Timor, Nigeria, India, Thailand, Palestine and the Jewish diaspora”.

“Zarni stood alone, and spoke out against what he rightly called genocide,” the letter read.

“He risked his own society’s ostracism, resigned from his professorship from Brunei University and lives with death threats, all in order to live and spread his deeply held sense of peace among fellow human communities."

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