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press release - camp-2 attack

January 3, 1997

For Further Information:
Mike Jendrzejczyk, Washington (202) 371-6592 ex. 113 
Zunetta Liddell, London       (44) 171 713 1995


Human Rights Watch/Asia is concerned by the attack by over
forty heavily armed troops of the State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC) on a Burmese refugee camp in
Thailand's Mae Hong Son district, and calls on the Thai
government to provide improved protection for this and other
camps which are perilously close to the Burmese border. These
attacks on unarmed civilians were clearly in violation of
Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, prohibiting
violence against non-combatants, to which Burma is a
signatory. The military s action resulted in extrajudicial
executions which should be thoroughly investigated by the
Burmese authorities, and the violators should be punished.

Two people, a nineteen year old woman and a thirty-five year
old man, were killed in the attack which occurred at 2 a.m.
(Burmese time) on January 3, 1997. Nine other refugees,
including a thirteen year old boy and a two year old girl,
were seriously injured. All the wounded are being treated in
the hospital in Mae Hong Son, but at least four of them,
including the boy, are unlikely to survive.  As they left the
camp, the attackers razed rice stores and left behind leaflets
from the Karenni National Democratic Party (KNDP), a new group
which has broken away from the main Karenni opposition and is
working closely with the SLORC. 

This is the first attack on the Karenni refugee camps, but
Human Rights Watch/Asia is concerned that it could mark the
start of a campaign by the SLORC andthe KNDP to force the Karenni refugees back to Burma.
Throughout 1995 and 1996 the Democratic Karen Buddhist
Organization launched scores of similar attacks on Karen
refugees, killing over forty people and kidnapping scores of
others. In fear of such attacks, aid workers had repeatedly
urged Thai authorities to move the Karenni camps further
inside Thailand, but to no avail. 

In order to reach the refugee camp, the Burmese soldiers
passed through a Thai army checkpoint at the border, where
they reportedly met no resistance. The Thai army responded to
the attack by sending additional army and Border Patrol Police
to the checkpoint outside the camp, but it was not clear if
they planned to remain there permanently.  

Karenni camp-2, where the attack took place, houses over 4,000
refugees from Burma's Karenni state, half of whom fled Burma
during 1996 as the government implemented a program to
forcibly relocate some 20,000 villagers in Shadaw and Ywathit
townships. Since the attack, over 2,000 residents of the lower
part of camp-2 have fled the area. They were prevented from
moving deeper into Thailand by Thai Border Patrol Police, and
are believed to be hiding in the mountainous jungle which
marks the border between the two countries.  While there is an
office of the Thai Ministry of the Interior in camp-2, the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) does not
have a presence there and the camps are supported by
non-governmental organizations.  

     Human Rights Watch/Asia calls on the Burmese government
to ensure that no further attacks take place on unarmed
refugees, and on the Royal Thai Government to improve security
in the camps so that any attempts to enter Thailand and commit
such abuses will be repelled. 

Human Rights Watch/Asia
Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to
monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human
rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the
signatories of the Helsinki accords. Kenneth Roth is the executive
director; Cynthia Brown is the program director.  Robert L. Bernstein is
the chair of the board and Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair.  Its Asia
division was established in 1985 to monitor and promote the observance of
internationally recognized human rights in Asia.  Sidney Jones is the
executive director; Mike Jendrzejczyk is the Washington director;  Andrew
J. Nathan is chair of the advisory committee and Orville Schell is vice