Written by U Ne Oo on 2000-05-31
# Alarming situation for Burmese refugees in Thailand: After the Bangkok embassy siege by Burmese dissidents in October 1999 and in particular the siege of Ratchaburi hospital in January 2000 by God�s Army, there have been crack-down on Burmese exiles by the Thai authorities. Evidence are beginning to emerge that the Thai authorities use these incidents as the pretext to mount undue crackdown on all Burmese refugees and dissidents.
On early March, we received Internet reportived Internet reports, which confirmed recently by Human Rights Watch/Asia, that Thai authorities have handed over some Burmese asylum-seekers and Person of Concern directly into the hand of Burmese military junta. Two returned dissidents, Saw Tin Oo and Tun Tun, reported to have died at the hand of military, according to HRW Press release on 5th May 2000. The AFP on 20 May has reported Saw Tin Oo, one of the student listed in the reports, was arrested at the Burmese border town of Myawaddi and being sentenced to death by theo death by the junta. This appears to be most serious case of refoulement of refugees and asylum-seekers by the Thai authorities. We must call for immediate inquiry into this matter and we must demand explanation from the Office of UNHCR in Bangkok.
# UNHCR�s humanitarian support to the refugees: Although the Thai government has allowed UN to monitor the safety of refugees at the border from three UNHCR field offices, the UN has no role to play in providing humanitarian assistance to the refugees. Traditrefugees. Traditionally, the NGOs are allowed to deliver assistance to the camps with the refugees themselves administering running of the camps. Since the camps have now become more stable, it is appropriate for UNHCR to directly administer the camps and provide assistance to the refugees. This will reduce the cases of some refugees, such as former members of DKBA or KSO, having to leave camps for reason of safety. The UNHCR increasing direct contact with refugee communities will also help create trust between refugees and the UN. s and the UN. Such trust will be essential for a smooth repatriation, which in the longer term may become inevitable option. However, the NGO should continue to provide necessary assistance to the internally displaced people along Thai/Burmese border.
# The Thai Government�s policy on Burma: Since late last year, the Thai government is encouraging Burmese dissidents who residing at Maneeloy Centre to resettle abroad. On the other hand, the Thai government does not allow UNHCR to extend its role regardid its role regarding protection and assistance to Shan and all other refugees. This can be interpreted as the Thai government�s desire to close down the camp belonging to Burmese dissidents and preparing to be involve as minimally as possible in caring for refugees from Burma. However, this policy by Thai government is unrealistic and not viable. The Maneeloy Centre will inevitably become a permanent refugee camp and the pressure is mounting on UNHCR to extend assistance and protection to all refugees from Burma. We must urge the Thai urge the Thai government allow UNHCR to provide protection to the Shan, with increase role for providing assistance to all other refugees.
On the one hand, there have been increasing tension between Thai government and Burmese junta because of Burmese government�s failure to stop the influx of illicit drugs. An alarming trend is that the Thai authorities take matters into their own hand and supporting ethnic rebel groups to sabotage the WAs who are responsible for producing illicit drugs. Such move will not help to fostert help to foster a longer-term stability in Burma. The United Nations and international community must urgently find ways to practically help the Thai Government�s effort to stopping the flow of illicit drugs from Burma.
# Examination on UNHCR�s repatriation program: In mid April, FIDH, a Paris based human rights organisation, published a report on repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Burma. Some of those refugees who were repatriated under agreement in 1993/94 by the Burmese authorities and UN havities and UN have been sneaking back into Bangladesh since 1996, with about 21,000 refugees from original influx of 1991 remaining in border camps. The FIDH describe the UNHCR to become an accomplice in �ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas� which �which trapped in an insane policy�. There have been serious deficiency in protection mandate of UNHCR. In particular, as the FIDH report reveals, the MoU signed by UNHCR and Burmese junta in 1993/94 did not include the clause for protection of the human rights of returnees.
In mid May, Burmese junta�s chief General Than Shwe was invited by Prime Minister of Bangladesh to discuss about the fate of remaining 21,000 Rohingyas (from original influx). The visit had been cancelled citing General Than Shwe�s �sudden illness�.
Regarding repatriation of Rohingya from Bangladesh, we can expect some messiness in any operation of this magnitude and nature. However, current problems appears to have stemmed from the lack of imagination by those people who negotiated the MoU in 1993/94. The UN agency cannot ad1993/94. The UN agency cannot adequately monitor refugees if their mandate wasn�t defined specifically in the MoU. Such inadequacy must be redress by promoting another MoU that gives UNHCR the mandate to monitor the returnees.
# EU strengthened its visa ban on junta leaders: The European Council has strengthened its visa ban and has also decided to freeze funds held by Burmese military leaders. In particular, the EU published on 24th May the list of 140 junta members who have been banned entry into EU countriry into EU countries with their funds being frozen. SPDC/SLORC leaders seems to be shaken by this EU stance. We must call for United States, Canadian and Australian governments to take similar line against the military junta. Enclosed letter is to President Clinton to take a similar measures as EC � please help write a letter to him.
# The NLD and Suu Kyi stand firm about the election results: In the 27th May Reuters report and in the videotaped message to NED, the NLD reaffirm their stand irm their stand that they will not accept another new election until and unless the results of 1990 election were fully implemented. This would certainly help us to renew the call for the Committee Representing the People�s Parliament be given proper recognition by the world�s parliaments. The United States Congress in particular should be urged to initiate support to CRPP.
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# Chilston Plans and New UN Envoy: The possible road-map to resolve the political impasse in Burma remain to be of tha remain to be of those outlined in �The transitional phase and prospect for change in Burma� published in 5th January 1998. Later that year, the Chilston groups had formulated the �carrot-and-stick� approach, which designed to persuade junta to negotiate with the opposition using a large scale aid-package as an incentive. By now, everyone has acknowledged about the failure of such plan. It is therefore about time to stage up the diplomatic and political sanction against junta. The EC certainly is leading the way forwa the way forwards in this matter.
In early May, the Secretary-General appointed Mr Razali Ismail, a Malaysian diplomat and advisor to the PM Mahathir Mohammad, as his new envoy to Burma. Personally, I have reservation because Malaysian Prime Minister has been known supporter to the regime. However, the NLD had already welcomed the Secretary-General�s new envoy; thus we, the exiles outside, had no further say in this matter.# The Australian plan to help Burma
: Ironically, Australia has lately bAustralia has lately been going against international trend on imposing diplomatic and political sanction on Burma. The government is on its way to deliver a small-scale human rights training to Burmese civil servants next year. An Australian Federal Police has also been stationed, on six months trial basis, in Rangoon since January -- the government�s assessment on this matter is still unknown. Although such assistance as human rights training to Burma is as valuable and has been grateful to Australian government, my primary concern remay concern remain to be that of the junta using Australian assistance as propaganda tool. The junta may also use Australian aid as a vehicle for receiving further assistance from some other sources, such as Japanese government etc. In any case, it is time to get tough on military junta with sporting(Olympics) and visa ban from Australian government must be requested.