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THAILAND: The relocation of refugee camp; Increasing risk of life

July 23, 2002

URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION <br>
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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM <br>
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Forwarded Appeal 23 July 2002 <br>
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FA-09-2002: Thai Government has decided to close the Karenni Refugee Camp 3 and relocate it to Camp 2 <br>
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THAILAND: The relocation of refugee camp; Increasing risk of life <br>
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Dear Friends, <br>
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We are forwarding you the following urgent appeal from the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) based in Bangkok. We are concerned that the Thai authorities plan to close Camp 3 for the Karenni people, one of the minority ethnic groups in Burma, and relocate the refugees to Camp 2. The relocation process will begin on Aug. 15 although it will be the height of the rainy season in August and September. <br>
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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) believes that the closure of Camp 3 and the relocation of the refugees to Camp 2 will not only impair the living conditions of the Karenni refugees but will also increase the risk of attack by Burmese troops, who have attacked Camp 2 in the past as it is located only one or two kilometres from the Thai-Burma border. <br>
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We are requesting that you send letters to the Thai authorities to express your concern for the Karenni refugees and to urge them to abandon this plan. <br>
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Thank you for your action. <br>
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Urgent Appeals Desk <br>
Asian Human Rights Commission <br>
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URGENT APPEAL <br>
22 July 2002 <br>
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UA - Thailand: Relocation of Karenni Refugee Camp No.3 to Camp No.2, adjacent to the Burmese Border <br>
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URGENT NEED TO RECONSIDER RELOCATION OF KARENNI CAMP No.3 <br>
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Forum-Asia has recently learned that the Thai Government has decided to relocate the Mae Hong Son Karenni refugees of Camp No.3 to Camp No.2 (adjacent to the Thai-Burma border). The relocation process is set to begin on August 15th, in the height of the rainy season, and to be completed by September. Camp No. 2, located some 20 minutes walking distance from a Burmese soldiers?hang out, has historically been the target of attacks by the Burmese military junta, resulting in the death of and serious injuries to innocent Karenni refugees. Relocation thus constitutes a serious threat to the security of Camp No. 3’s population. <br>
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Current Camp No. 3 was set up in 1995 when many Karenni refugees were compelled to leave their border-adjacent shelters, following the breach of a cease-fire agreement by the Burmese army. During the relocation process, many youth and elderly refugees died due to difficult conditions created by the rainy season and from diseases, such as malaria. A new relocation to Camp No. 2, or to any other area, threatens to destroy years of efforts and to put the health and lives of thousands of Karenni people at considerable risk. <br>
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Camp No. 2 is also heavily populated. Transfer of Camp No. 3’s population to Camp No. 2 would increase the strains on an already fragile community and endanger the minimal quality of life currently enjoyed by refugees in both camps. It would compel the construction of new houses and utilities, using trees from already depleted forests. <br>
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There is no doubt that relocation would be tremendously detrimental to Camp No. 3 refugees. However, Forum-Asia has learned that Camp No. 3 leaders have been ‘warned?by the Thai authorities not to speak out nor to seek outside help to fight against the relocation. It is noteworthy that an increasingly hostile attitude on the part of the Thai authorities, vis-?vis Karenni refugees, has been noticeable since earlier this year, when the rape of two Camp No. 2 Karenni women by Thai soldiers was publicly exposed. <br>
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We are sending you this appeal to draw your attention to the critical situation faced by the Karennis of Camp No. 3 and to put pressure on the Thai authorities to reconsider their decision to relocate them. We hope that our collective action will build momentum to ensure the security and improve the living conditions of the Karenni refugees trapped inside three refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. <br>
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION <br>
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The Karenni State is located in Eastern Burma. Since the Burmese military regime occupied it in 1948, the Karenni people have been fighting to regain their lost independence. As a result of the brutal policies of the Burmese junta, more than 20,000 Karenni people have fled to neighbouring Thailand where they live as refugees in the northwestern Mae Hong Son Province. They currently live in three refugee camps, Camp No. 2 and No. 3 mentioned in this appeal and Camp No. 5. <br>
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The first Karenni camp, Camp No. 2, was established in Mae Hong Son Province in 1989. Relocations have been frequent. Karenni Camp No. 2 has moved six times since 1989, on some occasions due to security threats but also due to the unwillingness of the local authorities to designate a piece of land for use by the refugees. Repeated camp moves have been very disruptive to the refugees. While most camp moves have been conducted peacefully, there have been incidences of violence and use of force on the part of Thai soldiers. Old camps have been burned down in some cases as refugees were moving or shortly thereafter. On occasion, the Thai military has made refugees burn down their old camps. <br>
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Camp No. 3 was initially set up in 1991. In 1995, following a cease-fire agreement between the Burmese military regime (SLORC/SPDC) and the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), the population of Camp No. 3 moved closer to the border. However, three months later, the cease-fire was broken by the Burmese military and refugees were compelled to move back to Camp No. 3. It is estimated that 40 to 50 people died because of the relocation. <br>
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The Thai authorities and UNHCR’s position seems to be that the presence of Karenni refugees in Thailand is solely due to battles between SLORC/SPDC and Karenni forces. In fact, it is the Burmese army’s repression in their villages that drives Karennis to Thailand. Recent reports show that this repression, including slave labour, looting, extortion, destruction of homes and crops, torture, rape and killings, is worsening. Tension at the Thai-Burmese border is also alarmingly increasing. One recent incident took place in 1997 when a group of 40 Burmese soldiers marched into current Camp No. 2 and killed two people. At least nine others were seriously injured. <br>
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On July 12, 2002, the Thai authorities officially informed the Karenni Camp No. 3 Council that their camp would be relocated. Relocation is set to begin on Aug. 15 in the height of the rainy season. <br>
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RELEVANT DATA <br>
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Camp No. 3 <br>
Walking distance from Thai-Burmese Border: approximately two hours <br>
Total population: 4,347 <br>
Children (1-11 y.o.): 365 (m: 188, f: 177) <br>
Adults (46-60 y.o.): 156 (m: 48, f: 108) <br>
Over 60 y.o.: 87 (m: 48, f: 39) <br>
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Camp No. 2 <br>
Walking distance from Thai-Burmese Border: approximately 15-20 minutes <br>
Total population: 12,892 <br>
Children (1-11 y.o.): 786 (m: 396, f: 390) <br>
Adults (46-60 y.o.): 918 ( m: 498, f: 420) <br>
Over 60 y.o.: 288 (m :165, f: 123) <br>
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SUGGESTED ACTIONS <br>
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Please send a letter, a fax and/or an e-mail to urge Thailand's prime minister and interior minister to reconsider their decision to relocate Karenni refugees from Camp No. 3 and to increase Thai support and protection for refugee populations. Please send also cc copies to other organisations working with the Karenni refugees in Camp No. 3, i.e., the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (Thailand office), Burma Border Consortium, International Rescue Committee and Jesuit Refugee Service. <br>
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FOR FURTHER INQUIRIES <br>
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Please contact (in Bangkok): Kang Iong Nian or Fransois Tanguay-Renaud, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), Tel.: +662 276-9846-7, Fax: +662 693-4939, Email: info@forumasia.org <br>
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SAMPLE LETTER <br>
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[Name] <br>
[Title] <br>
[Address] <br>
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Re: Appeal to Reconsider Relocation of Karenni Refugee Camp No. 3 <br>
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Dear, <br>
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It has been brought to my attention that your government has recently taken steps to relocate the Mae Hong Son Karenni refugees from Camp No. 3 to Camp No. 2. I am writing to urge you to reconsider the decision and to allow Camp No. 3 residents to remain in their current location. <br>
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Through years of hard work and support from various international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as well as from your government, the refugees of Camp No. 3 have courageously managed to survive. Relocation to Camp No. 2, or to any other area, threatens to destroy years of efforts and to put the health and lives of thousands of Karenni people at considerable risk. <br>
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It must also be noted that Camp No. 2 is heavily populated. Transfer of Camp No. 3’s population to Camp No. 2 would increase the strains on an already fragile community and endanger the minimal quality of life currently enjoyed by refugees in both camps. It also seems ill-advised to relocate them to a new area where they would need to again begin the process of cutting trees, building new houses and utilities, etc. <br>
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Finally, the precarious location of Camp No. 2 increases threats to the security of Karenni refugees. SLORC/SPDC troops have succeeded on several occasions to penetrate inside Thailand to attack Karenni camps. As Camp No. 2 is adjacent to the border, risks of new attacks cannot be ruled out. The human security and human rights of the Karenni people, already persecuted within Burmese and Karenni states, must remain the primary considerations of Thai authorities at all times. <br>
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For reasons such as these, I am deeply concerned by the critical situation faced by the Karennis of Camp No. 3. I urge you to reconsider the decision to relocate the camp and instead to increase support and protection for refugee populations who are in dire need of it. The Thai authorities should remain sensitive at all times to the many difficulties faced by refugees in Thailand. <br>
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Yours sincerely, <br>
________ <br>
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SEND LETTERS TO: <br>
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1. Mr. Thaksin Shinwatra <br>
Prime Minister <br>
Government house, <br>
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District, <br>
Bangkok 10300 <br>
THAILAND <br>
Fax: +66 2 282 8631 <br>
Email: govspkman@mozart.inet.co.th <br>
SALUTATION: Dear Prime Minister <br>
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2. HE Purachai Piumsombun <br>
Minister <br>
Ministry of Interior <br>
Thanon Atsadang <br>
Bangkok 10200 <br>
THAILAND <br>
Fax: +662 226-4371 <br>
Email: webteam@moi.go.th <br>
SALUTATION: Dear Minister <br>
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SEND COPIES TO: <br>
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1. United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (Thailand office) <br>
Regional Representative <br>
P.O. Box 2-121, <br>
Rajdamnern Avenue, <br>
Bangkok 10200 <br>
THAILAND <br>
Fax: +662 280-0555; 281-6100 <br>
Email: thaba@unhcr.th <br>
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2. Burma Border Consortium <br>
12/15 Convent Rd, Silom Rd, <br>
Bangkok 10500, <br>
THAILAND <br>
Fax: +662 236-7000 <br>
Email: dunfoj@mozart.inet.co.th <br>
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3. International Rescue Committee (IRC) <br>
2106 Petburi Tat Mai Road <br>
Bang Kapi, Huai Kwang <br>
Bangkok 10302 <br>
THAILAND <br>
Fax: +662 310-0364 <br>
Email: irc@theirc.org <br>
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4. Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) <br>
Regional Director <br>
22 Soi Areesamphan 9, <br>
Phaholothin Road (5), <br>
Bangkok 10400, <br>
THAILAND <br>
Fax: +662 278-4451 <br>
Email: jrsbm@ksc.th.com <br>
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Document Type :
Forwarded Urgent Appeal
Document ID :
FA-09-2002
Countries :
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