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                  TO THE 53RD SESSION OF CHR*
Mr Chairman,
I take the floor today to exercise the right to reply in order
to clear up certain misunderstandings of the representative of
Fimarc, an NGO, in his statement yesterday (1 April 1997)
concerning the policy of Thailand towards the Karen displaced
persons from Myanmar.
Thailand acknowledges the concern of the international
community over the situation along the Thai-Myanmar border, as
well as the need for protection of Karen displaced persons
fleeing the fighting in Myanmar. We wish to reassure that the
Royal Thai Government had been taking steps to address the
plight of the Karen displaced persons long before the above
concern was raised. International aid agencies and relief
workers have also been granted access to provide food and
shelter for them at safe sites in Thailand for decades.
The recent incident along the Thai.-Myanmar border is not new
to Thailand. Throughout the past decades, Thailand has, based
on its deeply rooted value instilled in every Thai individual,
provided considerate and generous hospitality to everyone
fleeing unrest from neighboring countries. At the height of
the Cold War, more than half a million of Lao, Cambodian and
Vietnamese displaced persons found their safe refuge on Thai
soil. A decade thereafter, there remain almost a million
people from Myanmar living in Thailand as illegal migrants and
displaced persons, posing enormous social, economic and
security burden on Thailand.
In spite of the above, Thailand will continue to adhere to its
long-standing value of providing safe refuge and humanitarian
assistance to all fleeing unrest from neighboring countries.
With regard to persons fleeing the fighting in Myanmar, the
following policies have been adopted:
- Thailand stands firm in her support for peaceful resolution
of ethnic conflicts in Myanmar.
- In the current situation of outflow of Karen civilians from
Myanmar, Thailand grants them permission for temporary stay
and allows a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
to assist them in the provision of necessities such as food,
medication, medical services, education, etc. Furthermore, the
Thai Government has taken steps to move Karen displaced
persons to sites deeper inside Thailand for better security.
Indeed, as recently as 25 March 1997, we have received a
letter from the UNHCR Regional Representative in Bangkok,
expressing the appreciation of the UNHCR for the actions taken
by the Thai authorities in the following words and I quote
"UNHCR is well aware of the difficulty in coping with arrivals
of large numbers of asylum seekers. We understand that the
Thai Government and NGO staff are working to upgrade sanitary
conditions in these encampments and this too is commendable.
Please extend to the responsible officials in the field, both
military and civilian, UNHCR's appreciation for their actions
that conform with the Royal Thai Government's stated policy of
granting temporary refuge to persons fleeing conflict in
Permanent Mission of Thailand
2 April 1997
*The above statement by Thailand was delivered in Geneva to
the Commission on Human Rights on 2 April 1997. The NGO
statement which inspired the reply was made by Fimarc
(International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements)
under the agenda item dealing with Indigenous Issues. The
section of the Fimarc statement referred to by the Thai
delegate was the following: 
" In Asia, indigenous peoples are the most impoverished,
marginalised and oppressed sector of society. In most Asian
countries, indigeous peoples are struggling to reclaim their
lands, their culture and their identity. But such stuggles are
often repressed by governmental forces. Alarming news of
serious violations of human rights is coming out of Burma. The
Karen living in that country are often suppressed and killed
by Burmese troops. Refugees living in the most appalling
situation in Thailand are forced to return to Burma into a
very dangerous situation. About 5,000 Karen refugees were
recently returned forcibly from Thailand, according to a
document distributed by Associated Press". (unofficial
translation from the French)