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Thai army delivers aid as fighting continues in Myanmar

Conscription continues as rebel forces report battlefield gains
A damaged statue of Buddha following fighting between the military and armed rebel groups in Shan state on Feb. 4. The Buddhist-majority Southeast Asian nation is currently witnessing heavy fighting.

A damaged statue of Buddha following fighting between the military and armed rebel groups in Shan state on Feb. 4. The Buddhist-majority Southeast Asian nation is currently witnessing heavy fighting. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 26, 2024 04:59 AM GMT
Updated: March 26, 2024 05:53 AM GMT

The Thai military has delivered much-needed supplies to those hardest hit in the recent fighting in Myanmar amid gains by the People’s Defence Force (PDF) and ethnic rebels which prompted junta soldiers to cross the border in search of sanctuary.

Food and toiletries for 20,000 people were distributed on March 26 morning after the eight-truck convoy arrived at the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing in a joint operation by the Thai and Myanmar Red Cross associations.

However, Aung Kyaw Moe, a deputy minister with Myanmar’s government-in-exile, the National Unity Government (NUG), described the Myanmar Red Cross Society as a junta proxy that “does not abide by the fundamental principles of the [international] Red Cross movement.”

However, Thailand vice-foreign minister Sihasak Phuangketkeow was more conciliatory, saying he hoped for an early resolution to the conflict.

But, he emphasized that Thailand’s focus was working with their military counterparts in Myanmar.

“We want every side, all sides, to overcome their differences so that we can be led to reconciliation and peace in the near future,” he told reporters about a conflict which erupted after Myanmar’s military ousted an elected government in February 2021.

Heavy fighting, artillery exchanges, aerial bombardments, an exodus of people, and conscription have intensified across Myanmar’s north, west, and eastern states since early March.

According to the Human Rights Foundation of Monland, each village head in Mon and Karenni states and in the Tanintharyi region — which sits just west of the Thai border — must provide a list of three to 10 people for conscription by the month's-end.

“Two men collect lists in the neighborhoods. They inquire about the name of the head of the family, the number of families, gender, and age,” it quoted a local source as saying.

“The Mon youth are no longer in the village,” the source said. “The issue of conscription is quite controversial. In some townships, there are censuses from the administrators. In some places, they are talking about people old enough to be called to serve in the military.”

There were also reports that rebels had killed military officials who were documenting men aged between 18 and 35 and women of 18 to 27 years of age and were therefore eligible for the draft.

The PDF, the armed wing of the NUG, and more than 20 ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) have reported battlefield gains in recent days, in particular the Kachin Independence Army which said it and the PDF had seized three northern military battalion headquarters over the weekend.

The Karenni Nationalities Defense Force says it has captured 65 junta bases and camps since launching "Operation 1111" four months ago and it now claims control over 90 percent of the state and was gearing up to take the remaining 10 percent not yet under its control.

It said in a statement that nine towns were yet to be taken and they included Loikaw, Hpruso, Bawlakhe, and Hpasawang townships.

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