More than two hundred Thai nationals trapped by the surge in fighting in northern Myanmar between junta soldiers and armed ethnic-minority groups are being evacuated to Thailand via China, the Thai foreign ministry said on Sunday.

Myanmar military, which seized power in a 2021 coup, is losing control of several towns and military outposts around the country as well as being overrun in parts of its north as they battle the biggest coordinated offensive, launched last month by an alliance of three ethnic-minority groups and pro-democracy fighters. The Thai foreign ministry said a group of 266 Thais and an unspecified number of Filipinos and Singaporeans are being evacuated from Laukkaing in northern Shan State to the Myanmar-China border with help from the Myanmar authorities.

The group will be permitted to enter China and will then fly from the Chinese city of Kunming on two chartered flights to Bangkok where they will undergo screening for human trafficking and any criminal records, the foreign ministry said.

The ministry did not specify the timing of the repatriation flights but said the group is travelling to the Chinese border on Sunday. Thai authorities earlier said some trapped in Myanmar were victims of human trafficking and some might be involved with telecom fraud gangs.

Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, has become a hub for telecom and other online fraud according to the United Nations, with hundreds of thousands of people trafficked by criminal gangs and forced to work in scam centres and other illegal operations. The evacuation to China comes a day after 41 Thai nationals were repatriated by land back to Thailand after a coordination between the Thai authorities and Myanmar army.

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