Prayut Denies Thailand Sending Rice to Myanmar Army

In this undated photo, a group of unidentified individuals load what appeared to be rice sacks to a truck at the Thai-Myanmar border in Mae Hong Son province.
In this undated photo, a group of unidentified individuals load what appeared to be rice sacks to a truck at the Thai-Myanmar border in Mae Hong Son province.

BANGKOK — PM Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday denied reports that the Thai army is supplying food to its Myanmar counterparts over the border amid international condemnation.

A report published by minority-focused Transborder News on Saturday shows photos of what appeared to be rice sacks being loaded into trucks by a group of men, some wearing camouflage shirts and Burmese traditional skirts, at the Thai-Myanmar border in Mae Hong Son province.

The premier said it was part of normal trade and had nothing to do with the ongoing crisis in the neighboring country.

“It’s a different story,” Prayut said. “It’s quite difficult to get around on the other side, so many people would cross the border to buy goods on Thai side. Myanmar is not requesting assistance from Thailand. It’s their internal affairs and they wouldn’t come to us.”

Nearly 250 people have been killed as of Monday as security forces used violence to suppress protests against the coup in Myanmar.

Transborder News also cited an unnamed national security source as saying that the operation was on the orders of the Thai government. It said units of Myanmar’s armed forces along the border have been requesting assistance from Thai authorities after their supply route was cut off by the Karen National Union, or KNU, an ethnic minority insurgent group operating in the area.

The KNU warned that safety will not be guaranteed for anyone supporting the Myanmar military.

“We oppose any replenishment efforts to the junta,” the KNU said in a statement released Sunday. “If anything happens to individuals who support the junta, we will not be responsible for it.”

Army spokesman Santipong Thammapiya said the force was not involved in the transboundary trade and asked the media to be careful in their news coverage that might damage international relations.

“People can still trade and transport goods across the border. However, they must not be prohibited goods or controlled arms,” Lt. Gen. Santipong said. “As the situation is delicate in the neighboring country, news coverage should be done carefully to avoid negative effects on national interests or Thai people.”