New video reveals Thai military destroying a cross border footbridge used by Myanmar refugees

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Human rights organization, Fortify Rights, has released a new video on Wednesday that appears to show Thai military personnel destroying a bridge used by Myanmar refugees.

The group reported that the film was taken from the Myanmar side over the Wa Le (also known as the Waw Lay) River, a tributary of the Moei River, which connects Myanmar and Thailand. Fortify Rights also said that they have new documentation that shows that Thai authorities have arbitrarily arrested and extorted refugees in Mae Sot, Thailand. 

“The Thai authorities should ensure any investigation into the situation on the border is aimed at protecting refugee rights, not further violating them,” said Amy Smith, Executive Director at Fortify Rights. “Arbitrary arrests and the destruction of this footbridge demand urgent attention.”

The video allegedly shows one Thai soldier giving a death threat to people on the Myanmar side of the border, saying, “What are you filming, fucker? You want to die?”

As the clip ends, the soldiers entirely take apart the footbridge. Fortify Rights reports that the video was filmed in March, 2022. The video has been widely shared across social media and is gaining huge public attention.

Parliament members from the Move Forward Party shared the clip online and have called for accountability.

Rangisamn Rome, the new spokesman for the party, wrote on Twitter, “I’m worried about the incident of Thai soldiers demolishing a wooden bridge to prevent Burmese refugees from crossing,” Rome Said.

“The Thai authorities should check on this case and find out who gave the order. This may contravene the principle of non-refoulement.”

The leader of the Move Forward Party, Pita Limjaroenrat, also said he will look into the incident.

Sunai Phasuk, Thailand researcher with Human Rights Watch, shared the video on his Twitter page calling for further investigation.

“The Royal Thai Army must have an answer! This is a clear violation of international law.”

In April, the Associated Press revealed that the Thai military was extorting refugees by issuing  “police cards” for an average monthly cost of 350 Thai Baht (US$10). Refugees bought these cards in Mae Sot on the basis that they would not be arrested.

“The Thai government should create a formal nationwide system to issue identification cards to refugees that provide genuine protection,” said Amy Smith. “Without such a system in place, refugees in Thailand hope to find protection through the police card scheme.”

Since last year’s February 1 coup, Myanmar has been in crisis as the military has carried out a deadly crackdown on protesters and activists, igniting armed resistance. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 1820 people have been killed since the coup. Over 10,000 others have been arrested or detained.

Myanmar refugees have repeatedly fled to Thailand in order to escape violence back home, but they have often been met with unsafe conditions near the Thai side of the border.

“Thailand has an opportunity to live up to its international obligations towards Myanmar refugees and set an example internationally,” said Amy Smith.


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