We do not lie. Of course they do.

11 02 2010

The Irrawaddy (10 February 2010) reports on the ongoing case of the expected forced repatriation of Karen refugees at Tha Song Yang camp in the country’s north.

The report states that, at a forum involving various Thai government ministries and agencies, along with representatives of the military and international organizations, a Thai Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesperson said that [the Karen ] …have expressed a willingness to return to Burma.” MOFA also claimed “that the area from which the refugees fled in June 2006 is clear of landmines, according to information received from the Burmese side of the border.” And, MOFA also claims that “there was no indication that the fighting between the junta-aligned Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) was going to resume anytime soon.”

MOFA’s statements were supported by a military representative who opined: “We speak the truth about recent events. We would never force people to go back.” He added: “although I wish I could give you more information about these issues, I have been busy with other matters recently.”

Of course the army doesn’t engage in forcible repatriation or other reprehensible behaviors! Those 150 Hmong with visas for third countries that they’d been waiting for months and years really did want to go back to Laos. And all those Rohinga boat people really wanted to be set adrift at sea last year.

Just a few days ago PPT heard a Democrat Party member claiming that the whole issue of sending back asylum seekers was against government policy and a plot by Thaksin people in the army to destabilize the government. Maybe it’s also a plot by Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to destabilize his own government.

Our cynicism is warranted when Guiseppe de Vicentis, the deputy regional representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says “there is ample evidence that there are landmines on the Burmese side.” He says the situation on the Burma side is not safe. The Thailand-Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) “said that at least nine people have been injured or killed by landmines in the region since the refugees fled in June 2009.”

The TBBC also confirmed that the military lied when it claimed that international representatives participated in a process that saw three Karen families repatriated last week. TBBC said international agencies “were prevented from accessing the Karen refugee camps prior to the repatriation…”.

PPT knows the UNHCR and the TBBC has more credibility on these issues that Thai bureaucrats and the military.

Coming out of self-imposed hibernation and seemingly being ignorant of Burma’s political circumstances, National Human Rights Commission chair Amara Ponsapich suggested that international mine-clearance experts be given access to the affected region inside Burma, to determine whether it was clear of mines or not. She asked if the Thai authorities would facilitate this operation as best they could from their side of the border.

Thailand’s National Security Council told the forum that Thai policy is first to ensure harmony and cooperation with its neighbors.” That seems far more accurate an assessment. Forget human rights and the lives of refugees as the Democrat Party-led government follows the well-worn Thai path to the natural resources and assumed wealth of Burma.





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.

***

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.





Migrants and human rights: An odious reputation

3 02 2010

PPT recently and briefly mentioned the case of 9 illegal migrants who appear to have been murdered by police near Mae Sot in the country’s north. For more details on this seemingly grisly case, see The Irrawaddy (2 February 2010 ).

The report includes these details that suggest that the life of a migrant is now worth $30.: “All nine victims were shot with a 22-caliber gun. Their bodies were found in two locations in northern Tak Province. The migrants had reportedly been arrested in the Phop Phra area and had tried to bribe the police for permission to stay in Thailand, The Bangkok Post reported, quoting one local source. The gunmen demanded 1,000 baht (US $33) from each of the group, but killed nine of the migrants when they had difficulty raising the money, one local source told The Irrawaddy.

The same newspaper includes details on the likely forced repatriation of Karen to Burma and the implications for these people.

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government, backed as it is by the military, has developed an odious reputation for its dealings with migrants and refugees.








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