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Thais warned to avoid Myanmar border area after tourists abducted by Karen rebels

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THAIS have been warned not to travel to the Myanmar border area near Kanchanaburi after a group of 37 tourists were taken hostage yesterday by the Karen Border Guard Force (BGF).
The group, who crossed the border at Payathonzu in Karen State, were reportedly captured by the military group early yesterday in apparent retaliation for Thai authorities arresting underage sex workers under the control of the Karen group.
All 37 tourists were later released following negotiations involving Thai officers led by Pol Col Kwanchai Theerakul of Sangkhla Buri police, the Royal Thai Army, and local authorities.
However, officials warned Thais to stay out of the Payathonzu area, because of the potential for another abduction.
Col Banyong Thongnuem, commander |of the Ninth Infantry Regiment, said that |the situation at the Thai-Myanmar border was back to normal now that the Thai tourists were safe and the border was |open.
“The incident was caused by the Karen group wanting to know why the Thai authorities had arrested their people. But after talking with the group and making a good understanding between both sides, they agreed to free all Thai tourists and let them cross the border safely back to Thailand,” Banyong said.
An official source said that the BGF had been angered with Thai authorities over a sting operation to arrest underage sex workers from Myanmar.
On Wednesday, the Thai police anti-human trafficking division arrested six prostitutes aged between 16 and 17 years, as well as two agents who brought the girls from Payathonzu to Thailand.
The source also warned that the BGF was still angry over the operation and |might capture Thais again, so tourists should refrain from travelling to Payathonzu now.
The BGF is a Karen army group loyal to the Myanmar government. They now control several key areas along the border between Thailand and Karen State and are engaged in fighting other Karen groups opposed to the Myanmar government.

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