About 10,000 people from Myanmar fled across the border into Thailand on Monday to escape fighting between Myanmar government forces and a splinter group of rebels of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, military and border officials told CNN.
The rebels and Myanmar forces clashed over control of the town of Myawaddy, which sits across the Moei River from Mae Sot, Thailand. The Thailand-Burma Friendship bridge connects the two towns.
Lt. Col. Vannathit Wongwai, commander of Thailand's 3rd Region Army, said Myanmar military officials told him they had retaken control of Myawaddy at 5 p.m. local time after bringing in 500 reinforcements to battle the Karen splinter group.
At least five Myanmar refugees and five Thais were injured in the fighting. Shells fell on the Thai side of the border, but the Thai military did not return fire, military officials told the Bangkok Post.
According to a report on the website Burma Election Tracker, the clashes began when DKBA militia members who had been employed as government border security troops rebelled because the Myanmar military was forcing people to vote at gunpoint.
"In order to win votes in the elections, [the junta] is bullying and forcing people to vote. But the people want to boycott [the vote], so the soldiers are holding them at gunpoint and our troops had to intervene and take sides with the people," the website report quotes Brig. Gen. Na Kham Mwe, head of the breakaway DKBA faction, as saying.
Polls were supposed to have closed Sunday in Myanmar's first election in 20 years, which critics have called a faĂ§ade of democracy put forth by the ruling military junta.
Opposition parties were either limited in the candidates they could run or boycotted the election altogether. The junta did not allow international monitors.
The Karen ethnic minority in Myanmar is divided into two main groups, Buddhists who support the ruling junta and Christians who do not. Those behind Monday's clashes have split from the pro-junta group.