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U.N. Probes Thai Soldiers Report

U.N. Probes Thai Soldiers Report 
By Robert Horn 
Associated Press Writer 
Wednesday, November 19, 1997; 7:45 a.m. EST 

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- U.N. investigators are looking into reports
that Thai soldiers caused the deaths of two Burmese refugees, including
an infant, and wounded four. 

``We've had various reports about this incident,'' said Amelia Bonifacio,
the Bangkok representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for

The soldiers fired their weapons for five minutes around ethnic Karen
refugees in the Thay Pu Law Sue camp near the Burma border to intimidate
them into moving to another location, Karen ethnic group activists and
aid workers said. 

As the refugees fled in panic, a 3-day-old infant was trampled to death,
another refugee was fatally shot in the stomach and four were wounded,
the activists said on condition of anonymity. The condition of the
wounded was not known. 

Independent verification of the incident has not been possible because
the Ministry of the Interior has not allowed outsiders into the camp,
west of the Thai city of Umphang and 210 miles from Bangkok. 

Bonifacio said investigators were conducting a fact-finding mission and
would try to enter the camp today. 

The refugees angered Thai army officers because they refused to move to a
new location that the soldiers said was just a 10-minute walk from a
Burmese army post, the activists said. 

More than 100,000 Karen and other ethnic refugees from Burma are living
in camps in Thailand, having fled Burmese army offensives aimed at wiping
out the Karen National Union, a guerrilla group fighting for Karen
autonomy in Burma since 1948. 

The camps periodically have been attacked and burned down by a splinter
group of Karen under the control of the Burmese Army. Many refugees have
said Burmese soldiers participated in the attacks. 

Refugees living in camps in the northern section of the Thai-Burma border
generally have been treated with compassion by the Thai army and local

There have been a number of clashes, however, in camps along the southern
section of the border where Thai businessmen are developing highways and
other investment projects linking the two countries. 

Those camps, along with the Thay Pu Law Sue camp, are under the control
of Thailand's Ninth Army Division. During the administration of former
Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the army rounded up refugees,
including women and children, and sent them back to Burma into the path
of a Burmese army offensive in February. 

Chavalit and his generals denied any refugees were sent back, but army
officers, district officials, local villagers and the refugees all said
the forced repatriations took place. 

Bonifacio said her investigators had met with local officials in Umphang
and she was scheduled to meet with Thai foreign ministry officials today.

She said she hoped the new administration of Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai
would take a more favorable attitude toward the refugees, but
acknowledged it was too soon to tell what its policy would be. 

© Copyright 1997 The Associated Press