At least 10,000 people seek refuge in Thailand as government troops clash with Karen fighters a day after crucial polls.
Refugees, who fled clashes along Myanmar’s border with Thailand following Sunday’s general elections, have been slowly returning home.
Fighting between Myanmar government troops and ethnic fighters had sent at least 20,000 people fleeing into neighbouring Thailand.
Some refugees who were forced to flee to the Thai border town of Mae Sot have now begun heading back to Myanmar after the government said on Tuesday that battles had ceased.
Clashes were reported on Monday in the military-led nation at key points on the border with Thailand, leaving at least three people dead and 10 others wounded on both sides of the frontier.
The clashes follow a demonstration over the elections as well as attempts to force ethnic minority troops to join a border guard force – which would put them under state control.
Crushing the opposition
The ongoing civil war has wracked parts of Myanmar since independence in 1948 and observers say the state’s determination to crush ethnic anti-government fighters appeared to have increased in the lead up to the election.
In the heaviest battle, fighters reportedly seized a police station and post office on Sunday in the Myanmar border town of Myawaddy.
Sporadic gun and mortar fire continued into Monday afternoon.
Two days after polls closed only a few results have been announced, and official figures on voter turnout from the election have yet to emerge.
The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) appears certain to win an overwhelming number of seats, despite widespread popular opposition to 48 years of military rule.
The constitution sets aside 25 percent of parliamentary seats for military appointees, however, officials of the USDP are said to be claiming up to 80 percent of seats after the elections.
Members of political parties that took part claim the polls were blatantly rigged, and believe they are the victims of widespread fraud in favour of the pro-military USDP.
Even the National Unity Party (NUP), which is generally considered to be pro-military, has accused the authorities of rigging the results to ensure a near clean sweep for USDP candidates.
Speaking on Tuesday in the capital Yangon, Aye San, an NUP parliamentary candidate, complained that the USDP “should be satisfied with winning 70-75 percent, but it seems they want to win over 90 percent, or even 100 percent of the seats”.
Khin Maung Swe, the leader of the National Democratic Force (NDF), accused the USDP of using every possible method to steal the vote.
|Aung San Suu Kyi, detained opposition leader, supported a boycott of Sunday’s election [AFP]|
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said voting conditions had been “insufficiently inclusive, participatory and transparent”.
Than Nyein, chairman of the National Democratic Force, created by former members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said the election was marred by irregularities.
“It’s very different from our expectation because of foul play,” he told the AFP news agency.
“We have our evidence. Some candidates complained … because there was vote cheating.”
The party was disbanded this year after boycotting the elections.
Suu Kyi’s term of house arrest is supposed to expire on Saturday, though the military government has kept silent over whether it will grant her freedom.