Thailand, Myanmar to form aid task force as border unrest intensifies

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DUBAI: Thailand and conflict-torn Myanmar will create a task force to boost humanitarian assistance to people displaced by fighting and could expand that to include other aid agencies, Thailand’s foreign ministry said on Friday.

Thailand hopes the plan will lead to constructive engagement between military-ruled Myanmar, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) regional bloc, and the international community, it said in a statement.

Violence has intensified in Myanmar’s border regions as an alliance of ethnic minority armies carry out coordinated attacks against the military, emboldening pro-democracy resistance fighters to target security forces elsewhere.

The United Nations estimates more than 300,000 people have been displaced by fighting since the rebel offensive started in late October, among more than 2 million forced to flee since a 2021 coup and crackdown that triggered a backlash against the junta. The unrest is the military government’s biggest battlefield challenge since the coup and has alarmed China and Thailand, with concerns about a refugee influx.

“The Myanmar side will soon send a working team to Thailand to discuss this matter,” Thailand’s foreign ministry said of the aid task force. “If the initial phase of implementation is successful, other aid agencies may be invited to have a role in the future.”

The decision was made during discussions between junta-appointed foreign minister Than Swe and Thai counterpart Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara at the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation meeting in China.

Myanmar’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the meeting took place but made no mention of the humanitarian task force. A spokesperson for the junta could not immediately be reached for comment.

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