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49 illegal Burmese immigrants and K

Bangkok Post (20 November 1997)

49 illegal Burmese immigrants and Karens held in raids
Refugees forced back to their camp

Supamart Kasem 

Atotal of 49 illegal Burmese immigrants and Karen refugees were arrested
yesterday in three separate raids.

In the first swoop, a combined border patrol and local police team
surrounded a forest reserve in Tambon Khanecheu, Mae Ramat district where
they found 105 illegal Burmese immigrants living in 30 makeshift

The Burmese, including men, women and children, were caught and sent to
the immigration office before they are repatriated. During the search,
the team found three sets of dynamite at the shelter of a Burmese man,
Naing Di, who also faced another charge of possessing explosives.

In the second raid, another 70 Karen refugees living in Ban Khanecheu
near the forest reserve were caught. The Karens, who had escaped from Mae
La refugee camp in Tha Song Yang district to earn their living, were sent
back to the camp.

In the third raid, the same team arrested 320 Karen refugees along the
Mae Sot-Mae Sariang route. They were sent back to Mae La refugee camp.

Pol Lt-Col Paisarn Suravasri, who led the three raids, said the influx of
illegal immigrants had posed a threat to national security, adding the
immigrants and Karen refugees had also cleared forests to build shelters.

Meanwhile, AP reported that two UN investigators would try to enter a
refugee camp near the Thai-Burmese border to investigate reports Thai
soldiers had caused the deaths of two refugees including a baby and
wounded four others.

"We've had various reports about this incident and our team is conducting
a fact-finding mission," said Amelia Bonifacio, the Bangkok
representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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

The camp is west of Umphang district.

As the refugees fled in panic, a three-day-old infant was trampled to
death, another refugee fatally shot in the stomach and four were wounded,
the activists said.

Independent verification of the incident has not been possible because
the Interior Ministry has not allowed outsiders into the camp.

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

The refugees living in camps in the northern section of the Thai-Burmese
border have been generally treated with compassion by the Thai army and
local people.

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 are under the control of the 9th Army Division, and during
the Chavalit Yongchaiyudh administration, they rounded up refugees,
including women and children, and sent them back to Burma and into the
path of a Burmese army offensive in February.

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

Ms Bonifacio said her investigators had met with local officials in
Umphang and said she was scheduled to meet with Foreign Ministry

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