According to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a group of 266 Thais were rescued and flown back home via China.
The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that more than 200 Thai nationals who were caught in the crossfire of clashes between soldiers and armed ethnic minority groups in northern Myanmar have been rescued and flown back to Thailand.
Myanmar’s army, which seized power in a coup in 2021, is fighting armed resistance from an alliance of three ethnic minority groups and pro-democracy fighters. Fighting is particularly intense in the north of the country, where armed fighters are taking over key cities near the Chinese border and blocking trade routes.
Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it is working with Myanmar authorities to evacuate a group of 266 Thais and an undisclosed number of Filipinos and Singaporeans stranded in the northern Shan State town of Laukkaing.
The group will be allowed to enter China and will then fly from the Chinese city of Kunming on two charter flights to Bangkok. There, they will be checked for human trafficking and criminal records, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
The groups are expected to reach Thailand late on Sunday evening, reports the Bangkok Post.
Authorities have previously said that some people imprisoned in Myanmar were victims of human trafficking and others may have been involved in telecommunications fraud.
According to the United Nations, Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, has become a hub for telecommunications and other online scams, with hundreds of thousands of people becoming victims of human trafficking by criminal gangs and forced to work in fraud centers and other illegal operations.
The latest initiative to evacuate Thai nationals from Myanmar comes a day after a separate group of 41 Thai nationals were repatriated by land back to Thailand.
Myanmar plunged into crisis when the generals seized power from the elected government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup in February 2021.
Millions took to the streets to oppose the takeover and advocate a return to democracy. When the military responded with force, some civilians took up arms, joining forces with ethnic armed groups that have long fought for self-determination. Since then, at least 4,185 civilians and anti-coup activists have been killed in the unrest, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Burmese nonprofit tracking the attacks.
The latest offensive against the military, codenamed Operation 1027, began on October 27 in Shan State near the border with China. It is led by the Three Brothers Alliance, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA).
The operation aims to uproot an “oppressive military dictatorship” and fighting has since spread to other areas of the country, including the western states of Rakhine and China, bordering Bangladesh and India.
According to the United Nations, more than 200,000 people died as a result of the fighting.