Villagers escaping from Myanmar’s Karen State are pictured in an unidentified location

People trying to get out of Myanmar amid a violent military crackdown on dissent after the February 1 coup are being refused entry to neighbouring Thailand and India, activists and media reports claim.

Around 2,000 refugees crossed into Thailand over the weekend after villages along the border area were targeted by airstrikes, but were forced back into Myanmar, David Eubank, the founder of the Free Burma Rangers aid agency, said on Monday.

Myanmar’s army launched airstrikes in the south-eastern Karen state in response to an attack on a military outpost by a local ethnic armed group opposed to the coup, though no fatalities have been reported.

The refugees have now returned to the Ee Thu Hta displacement camp on the Myanmar side of the border, Eubank said.

A Human Rights Watch senior researcher on Thailand, Sunai Phasuk, blasted the actions of the Thai authorities as “heartless and illegal” on Twitter, calling upon the country to let the refugees in.

However, an unnamed Thai provincial official denied the reports, telling Reuters that the Myanmar refugees were still inside Thailand. “They are in Thai territory by the Salween River, but they haven’t come further. It’s under army management,” he said.

Thailand’s prime minister, Prayut Chan-ocha, acknowledged problems along the country’s 2,416km border with Myanmar, saying: “We don’t want to have mass migration into our territory, but we will consider human rights, too.”