By Naewna and Reuters – published by CNA
A TOTAL OF 266 Thais who were trapped by the surge in fighting in northern Myanmar between junta soldiers and armed ethnic-minority groups have been evacuated to China and are flying back to Thailand tonight (Nov. 19), Naewna newspaper said.
Police chief Pol. Gen. Torsak Sukwimon said all agencies rushed to help the Thais who were stranded in Laukkaing city in northern Shan State but then safely evacuated to the Myanmar-China border with help from the Myanmar authorities.
The two airplanes flying this large group of Thais as well as six Filipinos and a Singaporean, a total of 273 passengers, from Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan province, to Bangkok tonight will be landing at Don Mueang Airport at 10.25 p.m. and 12.40 a.m. respectively.
The 266 Thais will be taken to an integrated screening centre in Nong Chok district where officials from Social Development and Human Security, Labour and Public Health ministries as well as Bangkok Metropolitan Administration will be screening them with police teams from Central Investigation and Metropolitan Police bureaus participating.
Victims of human trafficking will be separated and given assistance while also interrogated to find out about the criminal network that lured them to go work in northern Myanmar.
Myanmar military, which seized power in a 2021 coup, is losing control of several towns and military outposts around the country as well as being overrun in parts of its north as they battle the biggest coordinated offensive, launched last month by an alliance of three ethnic-minority groups and pro-democracy fighters.
Thai authorities earlier said some trapped in Myanmar were victims of human trafficking and some might be involved with telecom fraud gangs.
Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, has become a hub for telecom and other online fraud according to the United Nations, with hundreds of thousands of people trafficked by criminal gangs and forced to work in scam centres and other illegal operations.
The evacuation to China comes a day after 41 Thai nationals were repatriated by land back to Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai border town after a coordination between the Thai authorities and Myanmar army.
Top: People flee from a village after renewed fighting between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic minority armed group, in Pauktaw Township in western Rakhine State today, Nov. 19, 2023. Photo: STR/AFP and published by CNA
Front Page: The 41 Thais who returned from northern Myanmar yesterday, Nov. 18, 2023. Photo: Thai Rath