04/27/2021 Thailand (International Christian Concern) – As the military takeover of Myanmar approaches three months, Christians in neighboring Thailand are providing relief for those fleeing the conflict, including Christians from the persecuted Karen minority group. According to Independent Catholic News, the two Thai Catholic dioceses of Chiang Mai and Caritas Thailand are working together to provide vital aid to those who have fled the violence following ongoing the coup in Myanmar.
Most refugees entering Thailand come from Kayin State in Myanmar and are members of the Karen ethnic group. This ethnic group has a sizable Baptist population—approximately 20%—that started when American missionaries visited the region nearly 200 years ago. The Karen people, and Karen Christians specifically, have faced constant persecution from the Burmese military, Tatmadaw, and various regional militias over the last 60 years.
In the weeks following the February coup, the Tatmadaw has initiated a campaign of violence against all resistance throughout the country. The specific act that led to the current influx of Karen refugees into Thailand was a series of Tatmadaw air raids on March 27 that reportedly killed 3, wounded 7, and displaced over 10,000 people. Roughly 3,000 of these made their way south into neighboring Thailand.
“The refugees and in a desperate situation,” says Sister Aranya Kitbunchu, president of Thailand’s Federation of Religious Superiors leading the relief effort. “They need food, water, medicine and other basic services to survive these difficult times.”
In addition to basic supplies, Karen refugees are also in need of political goodwill. The European Karen Network claims the Thai government has blocked humanitarian aid meant for the refugees and are attempting to force the Karen people back into Myanmar despite the fact the Tatmadaw is still bombing the region. This would be in contravention of the international principle of nonrefoulement, which prohibits sending refugees back to areas where they face continued threat.
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