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Third Army boss plays down influx threat

Third Army boss plays down influx threat

THAILAND: The Third Army has given assurances that there will be no influx of Myanmar people into Thailand in the wake of the military seizure of power in the bloodless coup yesterday (Feb 1).

CoronavirusCOVID-19Myanmar
By Bangkok Post

Tuesday 2 February 2021, 08:56AM


Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party converge outside the Myanmar embassy on Sathon Road yesterday to condemn the military coup and demand her release. Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb.

Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party converge outside the Myanmar embassy on Sathon Road yesterday to condemn the military coup and demand her release. Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb.

Third Army commander Lt Gen Apichet Suesat, in charge of the northern region, reassured the public that there were Thai forces stationed along the Thai-Myanmar border to prevent illegal entry during the COVID-19 pandemic and anyone caught trying to cross illegally would be arrested.

Lt Gen Apichet was responding to media questions about a possible exodus after the coup.

“We are closely monitoring the situation. Myanmar people themselves may not be affected, but I told soldiers to step up inspections at the border in case [Myanmar] politicians or VIPs [illegally] enter into the country to hide,” he said.

He went on to say that the coup situation inside Myanmar is not likely to affect ethnic minority groups along the border as it appears that the two sides had already begun work on a fresh peace process, currently delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yesterday, Thai-Myanmar checkpoints between Tachileik and Thailand’s Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai closed four hours.

Tanee Sangrat, director-general of the Department of Information and spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Royal Thai Embassy in Yangon has been in close contact with state officials. For the moment, Thai citizens in Myanmar are advised to remain vigilant and follow the news and official announcements.

“Myanmar is a close neighbour of Thailand and an important member of Asean. Thailand hopes to see continued peace and stability in Myanmar, and that the current situation is resolved peacefully with a return to normalcy soon for the benefit of the people of Myanmar,” Mr Tanee said.

Spokesman for the Immigration Bureau Pol Maj Gen Archayon Kraithong confirmed that for the moment numbers attempting illegal crossings had not spiked.

One group of 106 illegal Myanmar workers were sent back over the border in Mae Sot, Chiang Rai yesterday, while another, also of around 100, was returned to Kawthaung, he said.

Lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science Chulalongkorn University, Naruemon Thabchumpon, said it had not exactly been a coup d’état since the Myanmar constitution allows for a transfer of power to the commander-in-chief.

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The constitution also allows the commander-in-chief to remain in power for a year after the seizure of power, said the academic.

A week earlier, the Myanmar military announced that it was concerned over the latest general election in which the National League for Democracy won a landslide victory, saying the election might not have been free and fair.

Protests

Meanwhile, police broke up a rally in front of the Myanmar embassy in central Bangkok yesterday as enraged Myanmar citizens demanded the immediate release of the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected politicians.

About 200 people gathered in front of the embassy on Sathon Road, supported by about 20 Thai protesters, including Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Chinawat Jankrajang, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep.

Most of the Myanmar protesters were migrant workers and most wore National League for Democracy (NLD) T-shirts and face masks with the NLD’s white star and gold bird on it.

Although the protest was peaceful, about 150 riot police broke it up and arrested a Thai protester. At least two people were reportedly injured.

A police source said a security guard was arrested, but Mr Piyarat of the We Volunteer (WeVo) Thai pro-democracy group posted a message saying at least three people were detained.

“Thailand must not endorse and legitimise this coup – as well as coup government,” WeVo said in a statement.

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