With 3 updates: ABC on Thailand, Burma and pushing back Burmese

10 11 2010

The Australian ABC has a report on its World Today program that states, amongst other things this:

Thai authorities have now forced most of those people back across the border into Burma. Our Southeast Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel is in the border region and joins us there now. Zoe, why did the Thais moved so quickly to push these Burmese people back?

ZOE DANIEL: Look I think Thailand’s preparing for a long period of to-ing and fro-ing from people out of Burma. I think there’s a real expectation that this border conflict could escalate and could last for a long period of time.

There’ve been various predictions of escalating conflict between ethnic groups in the Burmese military after the election and that’s what we’ve been seeing in the last couple of days and I think that Thailand’s view is that when it’s safe for people to go back they should go back. But there is an expectation that they may return to Thailand if there’s a further upsurge in fighting.

So I think what we could see if a revolving door of refugees crossing back and forth over the border as these skirmishes take place.

Also Thailand’s got lots of problems of its own politically at the moment but in a more immediate sense it’s just had the worst flooding in 50 years and it has its own displaced people to deal with, which is obviously a costly and logistical matter for Thailand to deal with. So they just can’t cope with any more.

ELEANOR HALL: Were the Burmese people as convinced as the Thais that it was safe to go back across the border?

ZOE DANIEL: No they weren’t. Many of those people in the refugee camp here at Mae Sot had only been there for say 12 hours, they’d crossed over the border overnight and then in the afternoon yesterday they were told, okay it’s safe to go back now….

There was a lot of fear in the refugee camp when announcement were made that is was time to go back and certainly a great deal of uncertainty about whether fighting is over and a general expectation that it isn’t.

Being sent back (The Nation)

The Thai mainstream media has a slightly different style for reporting this, not being always willing to report that the military forced people to go back. Of course, this has been standard practice by the military under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, with forced deportations of Hmong and Rohinga over the past couple of years. But all the Bangkok Post cover story says is: “Third Army deputy commander Sonthisak Witthaya-aneknand said the Burmese who sought refuge at the 346th Border Patrol Police unit in Mae Sot went home when it was confirmed that fighting in Myawaddy had ended. They could cross the border to Thailand again if the fighting resum[e]s, Maj-Gen Sonthisak said.”

At least The Nation states: “Thai officials began to return thousands of refugees yesterday who fled to Mae Sot on Monday after a state of quiet returned in the Burmese border town of Myawaddy.” It adds: “Armed forces commander-in-chief General Songkitti Jaggabatara said Thailand would not open any more refugee camps for Burmese who fled from conflict at home.” He added:  “We have a clear policy to provide only humanitarian assistance for them in a short period, and would send them back as soon as the situation returns to normal…”. Concluding, he said: “Thailand would not intervene in the domestic affairs of its neighbours and would not allow any armed groups to take shelter on its soil…”.

What is emerging is yet another example of the Abhisit regime, led by the military, developing foreign policy that sees the regime aligning itself with other authoritarian regimes in the region. Humanitarian concerns are out the window for authoritarian Thailand.

Update 1: As yet one more example of how Abhisit says one thing while is regime’s police and military do something else, see this report. PPT believes that Abhisit has done this so many times that it is clear that his task is to run interference for the regime internationally, with words about being humanitarian and respecting human rights, when he is heading a government that does nothing of the sort. He should be ashamed.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post has an ever so slightly different tune in this article in a report from another border area. It remains unable to criticize the military and the government in any clear way. This is the best it can do: “Thai authorities unexpectedly decided last night they would have to return to their homes…. Despite the reluctance of the refugees to go home, Sangkhla Buri district chief Chamras Kongnoi insisted Thailand had made its decision to return them based on confirmation by the Burmese army that the situation had returned to normal.” Yes, that’s right, the “Thai authorities – and PPT assumes that includes Abhisit and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya – believe the Burmese military. And then this: “Local authorities said the decision was based on national security concerns as the army did not want the refugees to settle in and try to stay long-term.” It is pretty clear that repatriation is a national policy and that Abhisit and Kasit, for all the former’s claims about human rights and humanitarianism, are risking people’s lives.

Update 3: It gets worse. The Bangkok Post has an editorial which trumpets Thailand’s record on refugees/people of concern. It says: “Despite the country’s preoccupation with rebuilding efforts at home, it is commendable that the government has allowed in the Burmese, many of them children and the elderly, who desperately need shelter from the armed clashes within Burma.” It then adds: “One thing that the government has to seriously bear in mind is that no refugee can be forcibly ordered to leave the kingdom. A plan to send them back must come with the assurance that Burma is safe enough for their return. Anything short of this would damage Thailand’s proud reputation as a safe haven for those fleeing terror and tyranny in their homelands.”

What is going on here? The Abhisit government has forcibly repatriated people several times. Are the editorial writers dazed, dumb or dim-witted? The government and military has forcibly repatriated people in the past 24 hours. Is this the best the Post can do? Would the same moderate and supportive tone have greeted a Thaksin government doing this? We doubt it. It is double standards or it is self-censorship. Maybe it is both.


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10 11 2010
Tweets that mention Updated: ABC on Thailand, Burma and pushing back Burmese « Political Prisoners in Thailand -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Beth Misenhimer, อิสระภาพ แห่งข่าวสาร. อิสระภาพ แห่งข่าวสาร said: ABC on Thailand, Burma and pushing back Burmese: The Australian ABC has a report on its World Today program that… http://bit.ly/c0j0R2 […]

22 12 2010
Asylum seeked imprisoned | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] The Abhisit Vejjajiva government has a horrid track record on dealing with refugees, and PPT has posted on this several times (e.g. here and here). […]

22 12 2010
Asylum seekers imprisoned | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] The Abhisit Vejjajiva government has a horrid track record on dealing with refugees, and PPT has posted on this several times (e.g. here and here). […]