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U.S. helicopters cause stir in Thai town on Burma border

In Mae Sot, home to many Burmese exiles and refugees, two helicopters stopped unannounced during a survey of the area

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In this border town known as "Little Burma," thousands of Burmese exiles and refugees were excited when they saw a US helicopter flying above them on Saturday, within view of Burmese soldiers staging a referendum across the Moei River.

"All the Burmese looked up at the sky in hope," said Myo Khin, a Burmese trader who just found out from his sister that their relatives were lost in their hometown of Lapputa in the Irrawaddy delta. "Only America and the foreign countries can save Burma now."

Local excitement grew on Sunday as another US helicopter flew into Mae Sot's tiny airport, which stopped serving commercial flights last year. The airstrip is just 1.5 miles from the Friendship Bridge to the Burmese town of Myawaddy.

Their sighting jibes with reports that the US has moved ships and aircraft into position to support a humanitarian mission in the country.

A trip Sunday afternoon to the airport found eight US crewmen in uniforms pumping fuel from one US helicopter, inscribed with "24 Marines" on the body and "EP" on the tail, to another US helicopter, labeled "25 Marines."

"They were here on a survey of the area, and they ran out of gas," explained a Thai airport official in the lobby. "One crew had to wait here overnight for another helicopter to come today and bring them gas."

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