Refugees sent back to war zone

Forced repatriation of Karen refugees from Mae Ra Ma Luang camp on July 17, 2008. (Photo HRW)

Forced repatriation of Karen refugees from Mae Ra Ma Luang camp I have not seen it reported in the print media, but several online alternative news sources have taken up the recent report from Human Rights Watch who report that:

On July 17, local Thai paramilitary forces, the tahaan prahn (literally ‘hunter-killer soldiers’) rounded up 52 Karen from two refugee camps in Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province along the Burma border, 39 – mostly women and children – from Mae Ra Ma Luang refugee camp and 13 from Mae La Oon camp. They permitted 17 students to stay on the Thai side, but sent 35 refugees across the border to the Ei Tu Hta relocation site in Burma.

The refugees, part of a larger group of more than 280 who fled to the Thai camps in early 2008 during a major military offensive in Eastern Burma, were told late on July 16 that they would be forced back the following day. According to local refugee sources, tahaan prahn commanders announced that all new arrivals since April will eventually be forced back to Burma. [Read full report]

Thailand faces a difficult and complex problem, the military hunta who control Burma are determined to either kill or expel the ethnic minority people from Burma. They are succeeding. Over 140,000 Karen alone live in refugee camps in Thailand, and unknown numbers live and work illegally in the country, not counting those from the other tribes. However, forced repatriation of civilians into an active war zone is inhumane. Such actions will brutalise the soldiers ordered to perform them, which in turn will put the Thai people themselves at risk. More immediately it places intolerable fear on the many thousands of refugees in the camps who have not yet been “processed” and given refugee papers.

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