Written by U Ne Oo on 1997-03-15
Dr U Ne Oo
48/2 Ayliffes Road
St Marys SA 5042
March 5, 1997.
Ms Sadako Ogata
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
Palais for Refugees
Palais des Nations
Case Postale 2500
CH - 1211 Geneva 2 Depot
Dear High Commissioner:
Re: Protection and humanitarian assistance for refugees in Thailand
I should like to draw the High Commissioner's attention to the current situation of Karen refugees in Thailand. As the High Commissioner is aware, there has recently been the Burmese military's offensive against the Karen National Union(KNU) rebel forces near the Thai-Burmese border. This offensive has resulted offensive has resulted 20,000 more Karen refugees to flee to Thailand. There are also reports of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army(DKBA) and SLORC have threatened to continue terrorizing refugees into returning to Burma. There were instances in late January-1996 of the DKBA have burned-down two refugees camps inside Thailand. Recently, there are also credible reports of the Thai authorities forcibly repatriate a somewhat smaller number of refugees into the war zones.
Since the January-attacks on the refugee camps, Non-GovernmentalNon-Governmental Organizations and UNHCR in Thailand as well as the local refugee communities appears to be making efforts to increase security for these refugees. It has been reported by the local Karen Refugee Committee that some refugee camps which are vulnerable of attack by DKBA/SLORC will be relocated to places deeper inside Thailand - and to merge the smaller camps into larger one where possible - in order to protect from further attacks. The Thai authorities are also assisting to relocate those refugees into safer areas insafer areas inside Thailand, as the local Thai media have reported.
In the light of these developments, I appeal the High Commissioner for Refugees and The Office of UNHCR in Thailand to increase its resources, both personnel and financial assistance, for the refugees from Burma. As I understand, the UNHCR in Thailand has currently been providing a number of roving protection officers to these refugee camps. However, recent attacks on the refugee camps indicate that such protection measure is no longer adequate for the safetye for the safety and security of refugees. I therefore ask the UNHCR in Thailand to increase number of protection officers and, where it is possible, to set-up the UNHCR offices at the camp sites in order to make more visible U.N. presence.
Regarding with the humanitarian assistance for refugees in Thailand, the task has normally been put in the care of the Non-governmental organizations. However, with this new influx of refugees, the NGOs are under considerable financial stress to cope with the needs - especially in raising nly in raising necessary funds. I therefore request the UNHCR in Thailand to provide also of humanitarian assistance to the refugees in the camps.
As for the longer-term solution for these refugees, we are continuing to request the United Nations Security Council to urgently initiate a ceasefire and to create Safe Zones within Burma. With this note, I should again like to appeal to the High Commissioner for Refugee to support the creation of Safe Zones in Burma.
In closing, I thank you and The Office of UNHCR in Thailae of UNHCR in Thailand especially, for your continuing attention to the refugees from Burma.
Yours respectfully and sincerely,
(U Ne Oo)
1. United States Department of State, Washington D.C. 20520, U.S.A.
2. Mr Alvaro de Soto, Assistant-Secretary-General, Department of Political Affairs,
United Nations New York, N.Y. 10017, U.S.A.
3. Ms Amelia Bonifacio, Representative for Thailand, The Office of UNHCR, Bangice of UNHCR, Bangkok, Thailand.
4. Mr Hisahi Owada, President of U.N. Security Council, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations, 885 Second Avenue, New York N.Y. 10017, U.S.A.
KAREN REFUGEE COMMITTEE (KRC):
STATEMENT ON RELOCATION DECISION, March 2, 1997
Statement on Decision to Relocate Displaced Persons on Old Camp site
The KRC was much heartened by the Thai authorities at a meeting with the Task Force 34, UNHCR, NGOS's and KRC in Mae Sod on the 3rd of February. At this meeting all parties concerned agreed that a safer location should be found deeper inside THailand for the Wangkha and Donpakiang camps that had been attacked and burnt down in January of this year.
It is therefore with grave concern that the KRC learned of the decision of Thai authorities (Deputy Governor of Tak Province, local district officials, Task Force 34, the MOI, and Border Patrol Police), at a meeting with NGO's on February 26, that the displaced persons of Wangkha and Donpakiang would not be relocated to a new loce relocated to a new location, but instead, consolidated into one and resettled on the old site of Wangha camp, which was razed to the ground in the fire attack on the night of January 26 , this year. As all concerned know, Wangkha had come under repeated threats and incursions before the attack.. It was within an easy range of the mortar from the other side of the border. Being on a flat land, the site can be accessed from every direction of the compass and, thus, it would be impossible to provide reasonable security to a camp on it by any measny measure.
The people from both camps numbering more than ten thousand are currently living in make-shift shelters with continued threats of further attacks. The KRC has been in a process of considering a safer site for them.
Accordingly, the KRC would like to respectfully appeal to the Thai authorities to reconsider their decision and request the UNHCR, the international community and the NGO's to appeal to the Royal Thal Government to relocate the Karen displaced persons to a safer location, in accordance with internith international norms and practices.
UNHCR SLAMMED FOR INACTION ON REFUGEES
Thailand Times, March 2, 1997
BANGKOK/RATCHABURI: In a rare show of agreement, a human rights group yesterday joined with the military in condemnation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for its failure to provide assistance to Karen refugees sheltering in Thailand.
Despite repeated calls from human rights groups for the UNHCR to lend a hand, UNHCR officials were only observing the situationhe situation and did nothing concrete to help the refugees, said Puttinee Kangkan, a spokeswoman for the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB).
Her remarks support those of Maj Gen Taweep Suwannasing, commander of the Surasi Task Force that currently looks after the refugees, who said on Thursday that the military had not received any UN assistance to help the aid operation.
He said the Interior Ministry's initial allocation of 500,000 baht to provide aid for the thousands of new arrivals fleeing from Burma's m Burma's civil war was insufficient unless backed up by outside funds.
Over 100,000 refugees have crossed the border in recent weeks following a severe military crackdown against Burma's ethnic minorities by the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc).
Around 10,000 refugees are sheltering in Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi provinces alone, where they are forced endure primitive conditions.
Frankie Abreu, 38, a Karen refugee at a temporary camp near Kanchanaburi's Pu Nam Ron village, called on humanitarian organizations across the globe to take heed of their plight.
Abreu, one of some 3,000 refugees sheltering in the camp, said the refugees lack food, water, medicine, clothes and even basis shelter. With only plastic sheeting to cover the shacks that they live in During the day they are at the mercy of the fierce sun, while at night they have no protection from the dew.