Myanmar detains Thai villagers in unclear border area

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 06, 2012 1:29 AM
Myanmar detains Thai villagers in unclear border area

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Myanmar's army has detained 75 Thai villagers suspected of encroaching on Myanmar soil in an area where the border is not properly demarcated, a Thai deputy prime minister said on Friday.

The villagers were rounded up by Myanmar soldiers on Wednesday night from land by Kra Buri district in Ranong province, 570 km (350 miles) southwest of the Thai capital, Bangkok, Yutthasak Sasiprapa told a news conference.

"We are in discussions with Myanmar to find a way out of this situation. Thai army officials in the area and our Foreign Affairs Ministry are negotiating with counterparts in Myanmar," he said.

The ministry said in a statement 50 villagers were being held.

The villagers may have trespassed onto Myanmar soil, with some even establishing rubber plantations on what could be the wrong side of the border, Yutthasak said, adding the Thai army was under orders to stop villagers crossing illegally into Myanmar.

Thanit Kumthorn, the district chief of Kra Buri, told Reuters by telephone he understood the villagers had not been harmed and were being properly taken care of. He had not heard any reports of deaths during the incident.

There are believed to be several parts of the long and largely unmarked border that could be disputed but both Thailand and Myanmar will be keen to avoid arguments and focus on cooperation as Myanmar opens up after decades of insular military rule.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Alan Raybould and Robert Birsel)