Further Updated: More on migrants, repatriation, police

5 02 2010

Update: The repatriation, forcible, has apparently begun (The Irrawaddy, 5 February 2010)

Further Updated: The Bangkok Post (6 February 2010) claims that the military said the repatriations yesterday were “voluntary” and have now ceased following domestic and international pressure.

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Following up on PPT’s earlier report , a report in The Irrawaddy (4 February 2010) suggests that the forced repatriation of up to 3,000 Karen to Burma will begin today (Friday).

The report states: “The refugees fled fighting in Burma between the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the Karen National Union (KNU) in June 2009, and now fear for their safety if they return to their homes in a heavily mined area still occupied by the DKBA. The DKBA is an ally of the Burmese army.

The UNHCR says that it met Thai government authorities on 28 January, and “reached an agreement with them that no forced repatriation would take place.” UNCHR continues to hope that the “Thai authorities to honour that agreement.”

A letter from more than 70 NGOs has urged the Thai government to “suspend any action to push the refugees back, pending genuine participatory and open investigation led by authorities and the UNHCR.” According to the UNHCR: “In our interviews with the refugees, none expressed any desire to return home.”

According to one of the NGO leaders: “this issue is more to do with the army than the government.” He said, “In principle, the government can decide what to do with this case, but in reality, it seems the army has more power.”

On Thursday, police raided the homes and offices of Karen Nation Union leaders and Karen journalists in Mae Sot (The Irrawaddy, 4 February 2010).

Meanwhile, a police officer at the Phop Phra district police station near Mae Sot “who admitted to being involved in the killing of nine Karen job-seekers, committed suicide on Jan. 30, a police official said at a press conference in Tak Province…”. The story (The Irrawaddy, 4 February 2010) claims that he committed suicide after admitting his involvement.

All of these events suggest the Thai authorities in the area, led by the army, are seeking to assert total control in the border area, reinstitute a climate of fear, and strengthen their ties to the Burmese regime. All of this at the expense of the limited human rights gains made over the past few years in the Mae Sot area. It is probably no coincidence that businessmen in Mae Sot are expecting increasing investment and trade with Burma at a time when the military reasserts its authority in the area.

The military can do this because it lacks any civilian oversight from a government that is beholden to it.


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