Written by U Ne Oo on 1999-11-05

For Urgent Action

( As you send your letter/fax, please marks "For urgent action" in order to the UN Asia-Desk to take appropriate response.)

From: Dr U Ne Oo, 18 Shannon Place, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia.

Attention: Mr Karim Ghezraoui, Asia-Desk (+41-22-917-0092)

Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

5th November 1999.


Mary Robinson

High Commissioner for Human Rights

Palias des Nations

8-14, Avenue de la Paix

CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland.

Dear High Commissioner:

re: Situation of Forced Returnees to Myanmar

I like to draw the attention of High Commissioners for Human Rights as well as High Commissioner for Refugees regarding with the plight of Burmese illegal migrants workers who recently were forced to leave Thailand. On 2nd November, the Thai authorities have executed a plan for mass repatriation of Burmese illegal workers. Because of recent border closure between Thailand and Burma, the Burmese troops are threatening to shoot those returnees. The Thai authorities then reportedly brought these Burmese workers to another border crossing point at which unmanned by Burmese troops. It also reported that the Thai authorities, in recent weeks, have been secretly repatriating thousands of workers through unguarded border crossings.

I am very concerned about the safety of those illegal Burmese workf those illegal Burmese workers who are forced to cross back into Burma through an unfamiliar terrains. It is believed that there have been land-mines laid throughout Thailand-Burma border by Burmese army as well as rebel groups. Furthermore, these workers who were secretly forced to enter Burma may have to cross the free-fire zones, in which anyone being found are considered as rebel by the Burmese army.

In addition to these immediate dangers, the returnees are likely to be subjected to various human rights abuses such as forceds forced labour and forced relocation in longer term. These migrant workers normally come from rural villages that are close to Thailand. The villages in these border areas are normally subjected to Burmese army's intensive counter-insurgency operations. The root causes for the displacement of these illegal migrant workers are very much similar to that of the refugees'. The refoulement of refugees may have also occur because of the Thai authorities are indiscriminately deporting those people without adequate screening procedures. dures.

The Thai authorities' current practice of unscreened and unmonitored repatriation of illegal migrant workers to Burma, therefore, is tantamount to torture. Once in Burma, these forced returnees will be subjected to physical dangers that are of life threatening in nature.[Thailand is not a signatory to the International Refugee Conventions as well as the UN Convention Against Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, however.]

I therefore appeal the High Commissioners, United Nations agencies and internatinternational community to make an urgent interventions regarding following matters:

In closing, I thank High Commissioner for Human Rights for your kind attention to this matter.

Yours respectfully and sincerely

(Sd. U Ne Oo)

Copy to:

1. Ms Sadako Ogata, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

2. Hon. Rajsoomer Lallah, Special Rapporteur for Human Rights on Burma.

3. US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy Human rights and Labor.

4. Kofi Annan, The Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Burmese Troops threa Troops threaten to shoot forced returnee migrants.

BANGKOK, Nov 2 AP- Burmese troops threatened to shoot a batch of migrants sent back home by Thai authorities today at the start of a planned mass repatriation of illegal workers, Thai officials said.

Thai authorities then brought the 200 Burmese migrants to another point on the Moei river border between the two countries that was not being manned by Yangon's troops a troops and sent them into Burma.

The long border was closed by Burma a month ago in retaliation for Thailand allowing student militants, who stormed the Burmese embassy in Bangkok on October 1, go free.

Relations between the two countries are at their lowest point in years.

The border closure complicated Thai plans to send back hundreds of thousands of migrant workers starting thrting this week in an effort to cap the number of foreign labourers from its poor neighbours -- Burma, Cambodia and Laos.

"(Burma) knows well Thailand starts expelling illegal workers this month. No matter what, we will send them all back home," said Police Colonel Preecha Suwansorn, chief of immigration police in Mae Sot, Tak province, 370 kilometres north-west of Bangkok.

The Thais have been sending home thousands of workers secretlyecretly at unguarded crossings in recent weeks.

But in the initial repatriation undertaken openly today, the three big passenger boats loaded with about 200 migrants had to come back across the river to Thailand.

Preecha told reporters that armed Burmese soldiers had threatened to shoot anyone who stepped off the craft and onto their river bank, near the Burma border town of Myawaddy, which lies opposite Mae Sot.

In Burma, a government spokesman, on customary condition of anonymity, said that immigration issues "should be discussed at the regular border meetings where government officials from both sides meet".

There are about 1 million foreign workers in Thailand, mostly from Burma. Most stay illegally. Human rights groups say many have fled oppression by Burma's military government.

Two years ago, Thailandhailand allowed employers in 37 provinces to hire migrants to work in 18 business sectors, including rubber plantations, rice mills, factories, fisheries and construction.

But in a bid to ease unemployment among Thais during the country's economic crisis, Bangkok has now set a limit of 87,000 effective from tomorrow, on the number of foreign workers from Burma, Laos and Cambodia.

In tak province alone, there are an estimated 50,000 B50,000 Burma workers in factories and about 30,000 more employed in agriculture and services.

To the dismay of local businessmen in the province who can hire migrant workers for a fraction of the cost of Thais, only a few thousand will be allowed to work inside the province under the new regulation.

Authorities in the province are now gearing up for a mass repatriation. A holding center for thousands of illegal workers they plan to roan to round up from this week has been set up in Mae Sot.

At least 100 immigration police have been sent to the province from Bangkok to beef-up the local force, preparing to search more than 600 factories in Tak, said Police Major Cahtree Hipthong, deputy chief of immigration police in Mae Sot. AP tk/rds

Expelled Burmese workers stuck in jungle

BANGKOK, Nov 3 Reuters -- Hundreds of Burmese worker expelled from Thairom Thailand today are trapped in the jungle along the two countries' border because Burmese troops will not let them go home, Thai officials said.

Thai immigration, police and soldiers ferried 250 Burmese worker across the border to Myawadi from the Thai town of Mae Sot today in the first of what are expected to be dozens of operations to get rid of illegal labourers, officials said.

But when the workers arrived in Burma, they were prevented from crossing the jungle deeper into Burma by government troops wtroops who suspected they might be dissidents.

"Burmese soldiers reasoned that anti-government groups might be among the returnees, so prevented them going deeper into the country," a Thai immigration spokesman told Reuters.

The Thai Cabinet rejected yesterday an appeal from Thai employers and entrepreneurs to let more than 600,000 illegal Burmese workers stay in the country. "The authorities concerned will begin to round up the illegal workers and send them back as soon as possible," Thai Labour Minister Wut Sukosol Sukosol told reporters on today.

Thailand, hit hard by its worst economic crisis for the past two years, used to host about one million Burmese workers until late last year when it repatriated about 300,000 of them.

The deadline for a decision on the future of most of the remaining 600,000 illegal workers, on whose behalf employers had appealed, is November 4. The illegal workers were allowed to remain as cheap labour in jobs rejected by Thais in 18 sectors, mainly in the farm and fishery industries in 37 of 76 p of 76 provinces in the country.

Thai authorities began rounding up illegal workers today and were expected to keep most of them in holding centres until the main crossing along 2,400 kilometre commmon border were reopened by Burma.

Burma's military government angrily shut its border with Thailand on October 1 after five armed Burmese dissident students siezed Rangoon's embassy in Bangkok and held 89 hostages for 25 hours.

The embassy attackers later escaped in a helicopter taking a Thai deputy minister inister as guarantor for their safe passage into the jungles along the Thai-Burma border.

The Thai action on the Burmese worker is bound to have repercussions on its cottage, agricultural and fisheries industries, especially along the border where employers are dependent on cheap labour.

Thai authorities along the border in Rangnong, Chaing Rai and Mae Hong Son provinces faced similar problems today with Burmese soldiers preventing Burmese returnees from moving into the country, border sources said.

But But Thailand's chief police officer said the operation to expel the illegal workers would continue. "Illegal workers will be rounded up from tomorrow and if the authorities of some neighbouring countries (Burma) are not in favour of the repatriation, these people will be confined to a certain location until the repatriation is possible," Thai national police chief Pracha Promnok told reporters. REUTERS ts.

Urgent Action on Situation of forced returnees from Thailand