[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Thai military pushes back over 1,00

The Nation (19 November 1997)

Thai military pushes back over 1,000 displaced Karens into Burma

posted at 16:25 hrs (Bangkok time) 

BANGKOK, Nov 19 -- The Thai military has repatriated back to Burma more
than 1,000 displaced Karen villagers who sought shelter in Thailand, Thai
military said Wednesday. 

The Karens were pushed back from Umphang district of Thailand's northern
province of Tak on Tuesday, because they were regarded as ''illegal
immigrants'' rather than refugees. 

Sources said several thousand Karens have poured across the Thai border
in recent months, fleeing forced labour and relocations in Burma.
Thailand only regards them as refugees if they are escaping war. 

Over 90,000 Karens are sheltered in camps on the Thai side of the border,
following years of battles between Burmese government forces and rebel
Karen forces. 

Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) here
said it was investigating reports that displaced Karens seeking asylum in
Thailand had been killed or injured in an incident in Umphang district. 

Karen sources have claimed that displaced villagers were killed on
Saturday morning when the Thai military moved to scare a group into going
back over the border, but the reports were unclear. 

The military on Wednesday denied any Karens were killed by Thai troops,
saying only that warning shots had been fired into the air early Saturday
to repel a small group trying to cross into Thailand by night. 

Later that morning, a patrol had found two illegal immigrants who had
been slightly injured, an military officer in Tak province told AFP. 

The United States embassy here said Wednesday it was ''very concerned''
about the reports. 

''We are seeking further information from the Thai government,'' an
embassy spokesman said. 

Border sources said over the last two to three months, about 2,500 had
crossed in Thailand at two or three sites at Umphang, fleeing human
rights abuses in Burma. 

They have been rejected sanctuary in an official refugee camp nearby, but
non-governmental organisations have been allowed to provide them with
relief and medical help. 

Thousands more Karens have either crossed or tried to cross at various
other points along the lengthy Thai-Burma border. 

Early this year, Thai military in provinces south of Tak were
internationally criticised for repatriating hundreds of Karen villagers
into a war zone, as Burmese troops undertook a massive offensive against
the rebel Karen National Union (KNU). 

The KNU is the only major ethnic insurgency in Burma yet to reach a
ceasefire with the ruling junta. It is still maintaining guerrilla
resistance against Rangoon. (AFP)