20,000 Myanmar refugees start heading home

About 20,000 refugees from Myanmar headed home on Tuesday after fleeing to Thailand as fighting followed a general election that is certain to keep Myanmar`s military and its allies in power.

Yangon: About 20,000 refugees from Myanmar
headed home on Tuesday after fleeing to Thailand as fighting
followed a general election that is certain to keep Myanmar`s
military and its allies in power.

The incident underlined Myanmar`s vulnerability to
unrest following the country`s first election in two decades
on Sunday, which was billed by the ruling junta as a key stage
in its self-proclaimed road to democracy.

Privately, officials of the junta`s proxy party, the
Union Solidarity and Development Party, have boasted of
winning 75-80 per cent of the vote, even though just a handful
of official results have been announced. Political opponents
say the sweeping victory will be won through cheating, and are
joined by Western nations in decrying the vote as manipulated
and unfair.

Thai authorities said Tuesday that Myanmar officials
assured them the situation had stabilised in Myawaddy, a
border town where ethnic Karen guerrillas attacked Sunday. The
refugees who fled to nearby Mae Sot, in Thailand`s Tak
province, were all expected to be sent home by late today,
said provincial governor Samard Loyfar.

However, fighting continued at Three Pagoda Pass,
another Myanmar border town 160 kilometers south of Myawaddy,
said Thai officials.

Nataphon Wichienprerd, governor of Thailand`s
Kanchanaburi province, adjacent to the town, said fighting
continued late today between 40 and 50 guerrillas of the
Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and 180 Myanmar government
troops.

He said casualties included an 9-year-old Myanmar girl
shot by government soldiers who died in a Thai hospital, and a
13-year-old Myanmar girl shot by Karen guerrillas who died on
the spot.

Nataphon said about 3,500 refugees would shelter on
Thai territory today night, with assistance provided by Thai
and international organisations including the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees.

PTI

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