Thais, border neighbors seek normalcy as battles rage in Myanmar

Mae Sot residents keep up with the news, “but we aren’t scared,” worker says.
Nontarat Phaicharoen and Pimuk Rakkanam
Mae Sot, Thailand
Thais, border neighbors seek normalcy as battles rage in Myanmar A Thai farmer tends his land near the Moei river in Mae Sot, along Thailand’s border with Myanmar, April 24, 2024.
Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews

Despite fighting between Burmese junta troops and rebels raging nearby in Myanmar’s Kayin state in recent weeks, life in the Thai border district of Mae Sot goes on with a semblance of normalcy. 

Mae Sot, located in Tak province directly across the Moei river from the Myanmar town of Myawaddy, has become a crucial hub for welcoming refugees as it is a strategic point for the Thai government to provide humanitarian aid.

Lately, on the Myanmar side of the river, armed ethnic rebel groups have seized territory while junta forces have intensified efforts to reclaim lost towns.

Tak provincial Gov. Somchai Kitcharoenrungroj told reporters that while the conflict in Myanmar continues, its intensity had decreased since last weekend, allowing over 3,000 Myanmar nationals who had fled to temporary shelters in Tak to begin returning home. He expects the remaining refugees to leave by Thursday.

In Myawaddy, residents have moved into refugee camps where they wait for humanitarian aid while trying to go about their lives as normally as possible.

Still, even as the sounds of gunfire and explosions drift across the river and temperatures soar to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), locals on the Mae Sot side are not deterred in going about their daily routines.

“They are fighting on that side, life here goes on as usual. People still visit, maybe a bit less on weekdays, but weekends are busier. We keep up with the news, but we aren’t scared,” Mali, a service worker in Mae Sot who asked that her surname be withheld, told BenarNews.

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A woman living at a temporary refugee camp in Myawaddy bathes in the Moei river separating the Myanmar town from Mae Sot in Thailand, April 24, 2024. [Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]
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Teenagers at a temporary refugee camp in Myawaddy, Myanmar, celebrate the Songkran Festival. April 17, 2024. [Pimuk Rakkanam/RFA]
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Children and others at a temporary refugee camp in Myawaddy, Myanmar, wait for humanitarian aid to arrive, April 17, 2024. [Pimuk Rakkanam/RFA]
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The Shwe Kokko Special Economic Zone in Myanmar is seen from a playground coffee shop in Mae Sot, Thailand, across the Moei river, April 23, 2024. [Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]
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A Thai soldier stands guard at the Rim Moei Market in Mae Sot, Thailand, April 23, 2024. [Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]
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A civilian in Mae Sot district takes a photo with Thai soldiers stationed under the second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge, April 12, 2024. [Pimuk Rakkanam/RFA]
Zin Ma U holds her toddler at the Pa Law Ta Moe camp in Kayin state, Myanmar, April 17, 2024. [Pimuk Rakkanam/RFA]
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Karen rebels rest following a mission near a temporary refugee camp in Myawaddy, Myanmar, April 17, 2024. [Pimuk Rakkanam/RFA]
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A truck transports Burmese refugees from Myawaddy to a temporary shelter on Thailand’s side of the border, April 20, 2024. [Pimuk Rakkanam/RFA]
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A haze covers Myawaddy in Myanmar, as seen across the Moei river from Mae Sot in Thailand, April 14, 2024. [Pimuk Rakkanam/RFA]


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