Burma refugees flee fighting on Thai-Burma border (2nd Roundup)
Nov 8, 2010, 9:36 GMT
Women, children and men flee from the eastern Burma town of Myawaddy (background) towards the border river Moei and into Thailand on 08 November 2010. EPA/STR
Bangkok - Thousands of refugees fled Monday into Thailand as troops clashed and Karen ethnic minority rebels who had seized key government offices in a Myanmar border city.
A splinter faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) on Sunday marked military-ruled Myanmar's first general election in 20 years by seizing the police station and post office in Myawaddy, about 350 kilometres north-west of Bangkok.
Myanmar soldiers fought back Monday in the town just across the Moei River from Mae Sot in Thailand's Tak province.
'M-79 grenades and bullets from the clash have landed on the Thai side, injuring up to 10 people,' Mae Sot district chief Kittisak Thomornsak said by a telephone.
Kittisak said the skirmish forced about 10,000 Myanmar refugees to flee to Mae Sot.
'People are coming across the Moei River all the time,' Kittisak said.
The Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge that crosses the river between Myawaddy and Mae Sot has been closed since August due to a diplomatic dispute.
Fighting was also reported between Myanmar troops and the DKBA in Wowlay across the border from the Three Pagoda Pass and Thailand's Kanchanaburi province, border sources said.
'This is Myanmar's internal problem,' Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said. 'There will probably be more fighting over the next three months.'
The DKBA is a ceasefire group allied with Myanmar's military junta, but a faction under Commander Saw Lah Pwe has rebelled against the demand that it become a border guard under the regime's control.
Saw reportedly said he seized positions in Myawaddy to protest Sunday's elections. The polls have been widely criticized as a sham, designed to cement the military's rule over the country.
'I am doing this for democracy,' Saw told reporters on the border.
Last year, the junta insisted that all 'ceasefire groups' were to come under the command of the military as part of the regime's election preparations.
Groups such as the DKBA were to set up political parties and turn their armies into border guard forces under the military's control.
While the main force of the DKBA agreed, Saw's Brigade 5 with about 1,400 troops has refused to submit to the military.
Other rebel groups that have refused to comply with the Myanmar military are the Kachin Independence Army with an estimated force of 7,000, the United Wa State Army with 30,000 fighters, the Shan State Army/North with 5,000, the Karen National Liberation Army with fewer than 8,000 and the New Mon State with 1,000.
In retaliation, the regime barred rebel-controlled portions of Kachin, Karen, Wa and Shan states from voting. An estimated 400,000 people were disenfranchised.
The pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party, packed with former military men, was expected to win the polls.
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