Around 700 Karen refugees from the Waw Lay area of Kawkareik township in Karen State fled to Thailand as armed conflict escalated to new levels between the Burmese Army and a breakaway ethnic armed faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.
It is important to note that in the days leading up to the highly controversial 2010 elections in Burma, this Karen-armed faction decided to separate from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, which has a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese junta. They could not justify joining the Border Guard Forces as stipulated by the regime, as a way of consolidating their military power along the border regions of Burma.
The situation on the ground in recent days has been palpably tense and grave. While violence increases one side of the river on Burma side, the refugees fleeing into Thailand have reported much difficulty dealing with the Thai authorities.
Over the weekend, when some 1,129 refugees fled to Thailand in the wake of fresh fighting close to the Thai-Burma border, they were treated as “ping pong balls”, as reported by Human Rights Watch. “[The refugees fleeing conflict] are reluctantly allowed into Thailand when fighting flares, but then returned to Burma at the first sign of quiet,” Elaine Pearson, HRW’s deputy Asia Director, commented on the situation.
The first clash between this breakaway faction and the Burmese Army erupted on November 8, 2010, a day after the people of Burma went to the polls for the first time in twenty years.