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NEWS - Thai Army Poised to Deport



Subject: NEWS -  Thai Army Poised to Deport Karen Asylum-Seekers

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Thai Army Poised to Deport Karen Asylum-Seekers

            Reuters
            01-FEB-99

            MAE SOT, Thailand, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The Thai military
            said on Monday it was poised to deport more than 800
            people of Karen descent who had fled from Myanmar into
            Thai border camps. 

            They are "economic migrants" who sneaked into Huaykalok
            refugee camp, in northern Tak province, last month, said
            Colonel Chayudhi Boonpan, task-force commander for the
            area. 

            "These newcomers are not people escaping from fighting but
            are economic migrants who have sneaked into the country to
            seek for work. We have to send them back," said Chayudhi. 

            Nearly 60,000 Karen refugees live in four camps in Tak
            province, having fled fighting between Karen National Union
            rebels and Myanmar government troops. 

            Chayudhi said the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC) and
            some non-government organisations had sought a week's
            grace to verify if the newcomers were genuine refugees. If
            not, they would be deported, he added. 

            The Thai military also plans to relocate some 30,000
            refugees in Tak province to a new camp deeper inside
            Thailand, Chayudhi said. 

            A KRC official said a separate group of almost 3,000 Karen
            refugees had fled their homes and were living in bushes
            along the banks of the Moei River, which borders the two
            countries. 

            "They want to come to Thailand but the Thai army does not
            allow them in. So they have to live in the bushes on the
            Myanmar side of the river but cannot return to their
villages
            because Myanmar troops have taken over their villages," he
            said. 

            A total of 100,000 Myanmar refugees of Karen origin have
            fled fighting in their homeland to live in several sprawling
            camps in Thailand's Tak, Mae Hong Son and Kanchanaburi
            border provinces.