Myanmar refugees start heading home

Myanmar refugees start heading home

Army-backed party sweeps election

Myanmar refugees start heading home

A group of Myanmar refugees in a pick up truck crosses the border from Mae Sot to Myawaddi town. REUTERS

The incident underlined Myanmar’s vulnerability to unrest following the country’s first election in two decades on Sunday, which was billed by the ruling junta as a key stage in its self-proclaimed road to democracy.

Thai authorities said on Tuesday that Myanmar officials assured them the situation had stabilised in Myawaddy, a border town that came under attack by ethnic Karen guerrillas on Sunday. The refugees who fled to Mae Sot, in Thailand’s Tak province, were all expected to be sent home by late Tuesday, said provincial governor Samard Loyfar. However, fighting continued at Three Pagoda Pass, another Myanmar border town 160 kilometres south of Myawaddy, said Thai officials.

“The heavy shooting in Myanmar stopped a few hours ago but sporadic gunshots still can be heard,” said Chamras Kungnoi, a district chief.

Landslide win

Myanmar’s biggest military-backed party won the country’s first election in 20 years by a landslide after a carefully choreographed vote denounced by pro-democracy parties as rigged to preserve authoritarian rule. Opposition parties conceded defeat but accused the military junta of fraud and said many state workers had been forced to support the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in advance balloting ahead of Sunday’s vote.

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