Karen refugees fleeing fighting in the Minthamee area, Tenasserim Division in Burma, are not being guaranteed refuge on Thai soil. Acting upon orders by the Commander of the 9th division of the Thai army, Karen civilians fleeing conflict and human rights abuses committed by the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council ) in the Karen National Union’s 4th Brigade area, have been forcibly repatriated back into Burma.
Upon arrival on Thai soil, male refugees, most of whom are not soldiers and some of whom are under the age of ten, have been immediately repatriated into the conflict area. Women and children have been allowed into Thailand but have since been rounded up by Thai authorities and are being sent back to Burma through a “safe corridor”. Many dispute the security of this “safe corridor”. Refugees are clearly being repatriated into an active war situation in order to prevent a ‘refugee situation’ in this area of the Thai -Burma border.
With SLORC’s continued offensive and the recent fall of the KNU’s 4th Brigade stronghold, thousands of civilians will continue to seek refuge in Thailand. Yet it is now unknown whether they will be allowed to cross the border, considering this latest action by the Thai authorities. Karen civilians who are prevented from seeking refuge in Thailand or who are forcibly returned to Burma are at considerable risk of being taken as porters and human mine sweepers by SLORC troops. There are numerous incidents of rape and ill-treatment of women. Villagers are arbitrarily executed if they are thought to be linked with the KNU.
We, an international coalition of groups and organisations working for democracy and human rights in Burma, deplore the forced repatriation of Karen civilians by the Thai authorities which is in direct violation of international law.
We call on the United Nations and our respective governments to immediately communicate to the Thai government, their insistence that all refugees be protected, including male civilians, and that no Karen civilians be forcibly repatriated into Burma.
We call upon the Clinton Administration, the Canadian government and the European Union to impose economic sanctions on Burma as a matter of urgency. We also call upon the European Union to withdraw immediately, without further procrastination, preferential market access for Burmese industrial and agricultural goods into the European market. The Canadian government should further consider the immediate suspension of Burmese garment imports into the country.
We urge all those concerned for the welfare of the refugees to hold demonstrations in front of Thai embassies and consulates, calling for the Thai government to protect the refugees.
Canadian Friends of Burma
Burma Action Group UK
Burma Action Ireland
Society for Threatened Peoples, Germany
Fractures/Reseaujeunes Solidaires, France
Burma Centrum Netherlands
Norwegian Burma council
Karen Youth Organisation-Canada
Seattle Campaign for a Free Burma
L.A Campaign for a Free Burma
Burma Forum, USA
Bay Area Burma Roundtable, USA
Burma UN Service Office, USA
Asia Pacific Centre for Justice and Peace
Burmese Relief Center-Japan
Buddhist Peace Fellowship, USA
Free Burma Coalition, USA