PM: Myanmar refugees returned “without coercion”

Myanmar refugees sent back over the border by Thai authorities were not forced, according to an account by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha Tuesday.

They also said were “no problems” with any bombings or assaults by the military back home, before being escorted back to Myanmar on Monday, the premier told reporters in Bangkok.

The prime minister denied reports that refugees were flooding into the country due to bombings by Myanmar government aircraft in Karen ethnic areas.

“There is no mass influx contrary to the photos being shown in media, in reality there have already been negotiations” with the refugees, said Prayut.

Prayut said the Thai side used no guns or violence. “We shook their hands and wished them good luck as this is the humanitarian way,” Prayut said.

According to Reuters news reports, the Myanmar government used bomber aircraft to target ethnic Karen areas last weekend following clashes between the Karen militia and the government forces.

It has been the worst clash between the two sides in decades, according to Thai Enquirer journalists in Yangon.

Myanmar’s military junta has stepped up security operations against protesters and ethnic militias since it took power in a February 1 coup. More than 500 people have died at the hands of the government since then.

The rights group Burma Campaign UK and Human Rights Watch have called on the Thai government to allow refugees to enter the country. Human Rights Watch researcher Sunai Phasuk said that Thailand’s pushback this week was “heartless.”

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