Photo shows Myanmar refugees relocated to Thai camp on Christmas Day, local media says

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An image has been shared hundreds of times in Facebook posts that claim it shows the "last photo" of dozens of people killed in a Christmas Eve attack in Myanmar which a rebel group and a monitor blamed on the military junta. In fact, the news outlet that originally published the photo told AFP it shows Myanmar refugees who were relocated to a Thai camp on Christmas Day.

"This is the last photo of 35 refugees who were burned to death in Hpruso," reads a Burmese-language Facebook post published on December 26.

The post, shared more than 1,000 times, shows a photo of people in the back of a truck alongside a photo of charred vehicles.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on December 27, 2021

The post continues: "The truck was brought by a Save the Children worker to rescue people. Four members of the BGF (Border Guard Forces) under Kalalata (Karenni National People's Liberation Front) were also negotiating to rescue the people.

"There, the [military] shot and killed all four of them first. Eventually, all the children and civilians in the car were shot and burned. No matter how much the [the junta's spokesperson] lies, the evidence will come out soon."

The remains of more than 30 people, including women and children, were found in burnt-out vehicles in Myanmar on December 24, a rebel group and a monitor said.

They blamed the attack on the military junta that seized power in February, ousting civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and unleashing a bloody crackdown on dissent in which more than 1,300 people have been killed, according to a local monitoring group.

Save the Children, an international non-government organisation, said in a statement that two of its staff were among the dead.

The photo was also shared in similar posts on Facebook here, here, and here and on Twitter here.

However, the claim is false.

A reverse image search on Google found the image published in an article by Myanmar outlet DVB News on December 25.

The article reports that Myanmar refugees were relocated on Christmas Day from a school on the Thai-Myanmar border to another refugee camp in Thailand about 90 kilometres (55 miles) inland.

Hundreds of Myanmar villagers fled to Thailand after troops from Myanmar's junta clashed with an ethnic rebel group on December 16.

Screenshot of the DVB's report, taken on December 30, 2021

Pyi Sone, a journalist at DVB news, said the image was taken by a DVB reporter in Thailand on December 25.

"We can confirm that these pictures were taken in Thailand by our DVB reporter", he told AFP.

"These refugees were taken to another place on Thai soil."

The report's Burmese-language headline reads: "Refugees on the Thai border are relocated to a single location".

"Myanmar refugees from Karen states sheltering at a school in Mae Tao Klang, Mae Sot, on the Thai-Burmese border, were evacuated to a makeshift camp near Mae Ku Kin Village, Maha Wan District, Phot Wan Township, on the morning of December 25 after the Lay Kay Kaw clashes," the report reads.

"According to a source close to the Thai military, 1,302 refugees from Mae Tao Klang School were initially transported in the first four trucks and the rest are being transferred gradually."

Below is a screenshot comparison between the picture in the misleading post (left) and the photo in DVB's report (right).

Sscreenshot comparison between the picture in the misleading post (L) and the photo in DVB's report (R)

AFP found a Facebook post published on the official page of the Thai national police force which refers to the relocation of the same group of Myanmar refugees.

As in the DVB report, the police force's post states the group was transported east from the Thai-Myanmar border -- and dropped at a shelter about 90 kilometres inland.

Thai authorities relocated 1,302 Myanmar refugees from [Mae Tao Klang School] to a safe area near Mahawan Subdistrict, Mae Sot District, Tak Province on December 25, 2021, the post said.

The route is available here on Google Maps.