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UNHCR protests Thailand's forced re

The Nation ( 20 November 1997)
UNHCR protests Thailand's forced relocation of Burma refugees

posted at 18:30 hrs (Bangkok time) 

GENEVA, Nov 21 -- The UN agency for refugees has protested to Thailand
over the forced relocation of 1,100 Burmese refugees to an unsafe place
straddling the border, a UNHCR spokeswoman said Friday. 

A UNHCR fact-finding mission to the Thai-Burmese border in northen Tak
province confirmed that an encampment of some 1,100 Karen refugees from
Burma was forcibly relocated last week, Pamela O'Toole said. 

After the camp was cordoned off by Thai troops last Friday, it was
shelled from an unclear origin in the early hours of Saturday. Two people
were injured. 

Armed masked men entered the camp in the morning, fired in the air and
beat or manhandled some refugees after the Karen first resisted soldiers
telling them to move, O'Toole said. 

There was a stampede but no confirmed fatalities, the office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said. 

The incident led to the group being relocated across the river, to an
area straddling the border which Karen groups allege is close to a
Burmese army post. 

''UNHCR deplores this incident and has raised the issue with the Thai
authorities in Bangkok and Geneva. It has called for and received
assurances that this will not happen again'', the spokeswoman said. 

''UNHCR was particularly concerned at the rough manner and the forced
nature of this relocation to an area where the safety of the refugees
cannot be assured,'' she said. 

There are some 115,000 Burmese refugees in camps along the Thai border,
many of them Karen. The Thai authorities are reluctant to allow new
refugees into the country. The relocated group started arriving in
August. (AFP)