Fri 6 Jul 2012
Filed under: On The Border
RANONG : Hundreds of Thai villagers encroaching on Myanmar territory opposite Ranong’s Kra Buri district have been detained by Myanmar forces, the Fourth Army confirmed yesterday.
Lt Suchart Buapradap, head of the Fourth Army’s civilian coordination affairs unit based near the Thai-Myanmar border in Ranong, said yesterday that Myanmar troops rounded up the Thai villagers from the so-called Ban Inthaninkwan on Wednesday evening.
Three villagers escaped the raid and set off on foot to a Thai military outpost to appeal for help.
Lt Suchart said the exact number of Thais being detained by the Myanmar troops was unclear although local Thai authorities estimate 500-800 are being held.
The three male villagers who escaped were identified as Dum Lekpaen, a resident of Kra Buri district; Thawatchai Phromkaew, a resident of Khao Phanom district in Krabi; and Ekkachai Kraisri, also from Khao Phanom district.
The three men said Myanmar soldiers surrounded Ban Inthaninkwang and began threatening the villagers. They also fired warning shots in the air for almost an hour.
Hundreds of villagers were then herded into the middle of the village and arrested, the three witnesses said.
Mr Thawatchai said he was hired by the villagers to bulldoze and flatten land in the village.
He said he was told the location of the village had not been properly demarcated, meaning it could be in Myanmar territory.
About 1,000 people belonging to around 300 families had settled in the area to establish the Ban Inthaninkwan community, said Ruangrit Paemuangpak, the headman of neighbouring Moo 9 village in tambon Jorporror.
Mr Ruangrit said it was difficult to say how many people were rounded up as some of the villagers routinely travel back and forth across the border.
He estimated that up to 800 people were in the village when the raid took place.
Some villagers may have escaped or gone into hiding in the nearby forests, he said.
Kra Buri assistant district chief Jarin Udomchaijaroen said his office was urgently trying to get more information about the villagers’ current situation.
Prior to their arrest, he said, several state agencies had warned the villagers on several occasions against settling in Ban Inthaninkwan because of the uncertainty over where the actual border is located.
But the villagers ignored their repeated warnings, Mr Jarin said.
He said he had received a report that six backhoes, two tractors, and between 25 and 30 pick-up trucks were also seized in the raid.
Most of the villagers had encroached on the Myanmar side and established rubber plantations, said Sophon Phisetsin, 50, a resident of Moo 9 village.
He said several Myanmar villagers who crossed the border earlier on Wednesday to shop for food supplies in Thailand had told him that troops were preparing to raid the community.
Mr Sophon said he immediately passed on the warning to the Ban Inthaninkwan villagers but they did not believe him.
Anusorn Srisuksai, a resident of Ban Rangtaen in the same tambon, said both his parents, Boonyuen and Kaenpech Srisuksai, were probably among the detained villagers.
After the raid, he said his mother called him on his mobile phone to say she was hiding alone in the forest in Myanmar. There was no word as to the fate of his father, Mr Anusorn said.
He said he has asked the local authorities to help locate his parents who are very old.
Recently, Maj Gen Manas Khongpaen, of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4, had revealed that a number of Thais had encroached on more than 6,000 rai of land in Myanmar just opposite Ranong’s Kra Buri district and Chumphon’s Tha Sae district.