Thirty-nine British MPs have added their names to a Parliamentary motion calling on Thailand to stop threatening to deport ethnic Karen refugees back to Burma. The motion comes after Thailand started then halted the deportation of Karen refugees last month.
The motion states that the MPs are ‘appalled’ by the fact that Thailand started to deport the refugees, who have fled human rights abuses that the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma has recently said deserve to be investigated as war crimes and crimes against humanity.
It also calls on the Thai government to halt harassment of refugees, pressuring them to agree to return, which has continued since the deportations were halted following international criticism.
The motion also calls on the British government: ‘To examine whether the actions of the government of Thailand in forcing refugees to return could break international humanitarian and human rights law.’
“If the Thai government has been hoping that international attention will move on and they can quietly start deporting refugees again, this motion should let them know they are mistaken,” said Mary Thandar Tun, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “Thailand should find a solution to help the refugees that does not involve forcing them back to Burma to face landmines and human rights abuses.”
The motion was put down by Lembit Opik MP.
“The deportation of Karen civilians back to Burma is not only immoral but potentially illegal under international law. If the Thai government sends these people over the border they will literally be sending them to their deaths. The support of thirty-eight MPs from six political parties shows that the UK Parliament is not willing to sit by and watch this happen.” said Lembit Opik, MP.
Thousands of new Karen refugees fled to Thailand following a major new military offensive by the Burmese Army and their allies in June 2009. They have been in temporary camps on the Thailand Burma border since then. Thailand has publicly stated that it will not force the refugees back against their will, but in practice local soldiers and government officials have harassed and threatened the refugees to try to force them to agree to return. Click here for a full background briefing.
For more information contact Mary Thandar Tun on 44(0) 207 324 4710. Unfortunately Lembit Opik is not available for interview.
Early Day Motion 955
THAILAND AND THE RETURN OF ETHNIC KAREN REFUGEES TO BURMA
That this House condemns the actions of the government of Thailand, which is threatening to deport 3,000 ethnic Karen refugees back to Burma; is appalled that on 5 February 2010 thirteen refugees were forced to return against their will to an area which is infested with landmines, and occupied by a military force, allied to the dictatorship in Burma, which is likely to use the villagers as slave labour and children as child soldiers; expresses deep concern that the government of Thailand has made false claims to the international community that the refugees want to return; calls on the government of Thailand to turn its temporary halt of the deportations into a permanent one, and to end the harassment and intimidation of the refugees; and calls on the British Government to make the strongest possible representations to Thailand on this matter, and to examine whether the actions of the government of Thailand in forcing refugees to return could break international humanitarian and human rights law.