False posts claim emergency imposed at Thai-Myanmar border after 'bomb attack'

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Two photos have been shared repeatedly on social media in posts that falsely claim the Thai Prime Minister issued an "emergency decree" related to the country's border with Myanmar after a roadside bomb killed a police officer. The posts also falsely claim the Thai army conducted searches for ethnic Burmese rebels at refugee camps located along the border. The photos in the screengrabs were taken from old media reports on bomb attacks in southern Thailand unrelated to the ethnic clash in Myanmar. The Thai government and a non-profit organisation also confirmed to AFP no raids were carried out at camps housing Burmese refugees.

"Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut has made an emergency decree as soon as he got his post back," reads the Facebook post in Burmese published on September 30, 2022.

It goes on to claim that Thai people have demanded the shutdown of refugee camps linked to the Burmese rebel group Karen National Union (KNU) and that the Thai military had conducted a search operation at the camp.

It claims Thai troops "have also been deployed on the Thai-Myanmar border for extra security".

Burmese text in one of the screengrabs repeats most of the claims, while the other shows an Al Jazeera article about a bomb attack in Pattani Province in southern Thailand that was published on September 21, 2022.

Screenshot taken on October 17, 2022 of the misleading post

Posts with similar claims were shared on Facebook here, here, and here, and on Russian social media site VKontakte here.

However, the claim is false.

No emergency decree

The KNU is an ethnic armed group that has waged war with the Burmese military in Myanmar's Karen State for decades.

According to the UN, more than 90,000 refugees from Myanmar fled their country's long-running civil war and live in refugee camps along the border in Thailand.

The posts circulated as fighting between the Burmese army and KNU forces intensified in the areas near the border with Thailand, as reported by local media. The KNU has claimed it has killed at least 48 army soldiers in several skirmishes since August.

Thailand's deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek told AFP that the Thai government "has not issued any forms of emergency decree".

"There have been no motions in parliament related to an emergency decree on the grounds of national security since the Thai Prime Minister returned to his post," she told AFP on October 17, 2022.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha resumed office on September 30 after Thailand's constitutional court ruled he has not exceeded his eight-year term limit.

Rachada added that there were also no orders related to the refugee camps.

Timothy Moore, Thailand programme director at refugee rights non-profit organisation the Border Consortium, said his organisation had not seen any news of recent raids on the camps, as claimed in the false posts.

"While it is true that army troops have been deployed on the border to regulate new arrivals from Myanmar into Thailand, this is something that occurred after the coup d'etat in Myanmar in February last year, and (is) not a new occurrence," he told AFP in an email on October 19.

Attacks in southern Thailand

Through reverse image searches on Google, AFP determined the two pictures in the posts were taken from different news reports about bomb attacks in southern Thailand that were not related to rebel groups in Myanmar.

AFP published the first photo on November 6, 2019, along with a caption that said it showed members of a bomb squad inspecting the site of an attack by suspected Muslim militants in Yala province in southern Thailand.

The second screenshot in the misleading post shows an Al Jazeera article that used a file picture originally published by Reuters, available here.

The Reuters caption reads: "Police check for explosives outside Baan Bang Khao school after an explosion in Pattani in Thailand January 10, 2018."

Below is a screenshot of the two photos used in the misleading post (left), compared with the original photos from AFP (centre) and Reuters (right):

A screenshot comparison showing the images in the false post (left), compared with images published by AFP (centre) and Reuters (right)

The fighting in southern Thailand has killed more than 7,000 people since 2014, as rebels in the Muslim-majority region battle for greater autonomy from the central government.

AFP has previously debunked other claims related to clashes in Myanmar involving ethnic rebel groups here and here.