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30 January – 5 February: Thailand Begins Forcibly Repatriating Karen Refugees

February 5, 2010

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We have heard that 3 families of Karen refugees have been sent back to Burma today, despite promises from the Thai military that all the refugees would be safe. The families were staying in temporary camps at Nong Bua (also called No Bu) and Mae U Su, in Tha Song Yang District, Tak Province, Thailand, with more than 3,000 other refugees who had fled fighting in Burma’s Karen State. Plans remain in place to send all of the remaining Karen refugees in the area.

While Thai authorities have repeatedly claimed that they would not force people to return, only one family out of the more than 3,000 refugees has volunteered to go back. Villagers are extremely fearful of being forcibly returned to an armed conflict area where fighting could break out at anytime. Civilians will also be at great risk from landmines and human rights violations at the hands of the SPDC’s army and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), as well as food shortages. For more information on the situation, please read Burma Campaign UK’s background briefing.

Civil society groups remain extremely concerned about the safety of these refugees. Urgent appeals from the Karen Women’s Organization, Karen National Union, and many other civil society organizations have so far fallen on deaf ears. Friends of Burma have collected signatures from over 75 Thai and Burma organizations on an open letter that will be delivered to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva calling for a stop to the repatriations. Twenty-nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives have also written an open letter to the Prime Minister.

With the possibility of more refugees being repatriated at any time, the international community must take urgent measures and appeal to the Thai government to halt further repatriations.

We will continue to closely monitor the situation and will send timely updates.

In Solidarity,

Burma Partnership Secretariat

News Highlights

Thailand Begins Forced Repatriation of Karen Refugees

Thai security agencies raid Karen Information Centre

Inside Burma

Burma-born American citizen Ko Nyi Nyi Aung, detained in Rangoon’s Insein prison, has declined food sent by his family.

>> Click here for more

Three monks and two civilians have been sentenced up to nine years for their role in the Saffron Revolution in September 2007.

>> Click here for more

Two hundred Karen civilians and soldiers took part in ceremonies at 6th Brigade headquarters of the Karen National Liberation Army to celebrate the 61st Karen Revolution Day.

>> Click here for more

Regional

Nine Karen migrant workers were killed by gunmen near Mae Sot on the Thai-Burma border. A week later, a police officer who admitted to being involved in killing committed suicide.

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International

US President Barack Obama earmarked $36.5 million in the 2011 budget to support democracy and humanitarian programs for Burma and along the Thai-Burma border.

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The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Burma’s junta for the harsh sentencing of journalist Ngwe Soe Lin to 13 years in prison for working with exile media outlet Democratic Voice of Burma.

>> Click here for more

The Asian Development Bank said that it has no immediate plans to provide assistance to Burma, following the World Bank’s similar statement last week.

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Action

On 5 February, the Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma held a protest at the Burmese Consulate and the Cheung Kong Building.

>> Click here to see photos

>> Click here to see the video

>> Click here to read the statement delivered to the Burmese Consulate

The Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma is also collecting signatures on a petition against Hong Kong-based company Hutchison’s involvement in Burma. The petition calls on the company to urge the junta to release all political prisoners and end human rights violations, or withdraw from the country.

>> Click here to see the petition

On 4 February, ethnic Kachins submitted a letter to the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi opposing the Irrawaddy Myitsone dam project in Kachin State, northern Burma. Similar letters were delivered to embassies in the UK, Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan.

>> Click here for more

Opinion

Freedom But Not Free in Burma
Voice of America

Junta thumbs nose at world
Bangkok Post

Myanmar election date is uncertain, but not who will win
By Larry Jagan
The National (UAE)

How Long will Burma’s New Constitution Last?
By Arnold Corso
The Irrawaddy

Statements, Reports and Press Releases

All Burma Monks Alliance: Statement: Special request to all the Burmese monks not to accept donation and give prayer service to U Aung San Oo (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s brother) and his family (Burmese)

Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma: Briefer: Eastern Burma: 118,800 displaced in 18 months

Burma Campaign UK: Press Release: 3,000 Ethnic Karen Refugees At Risk Of Deportation From Thailand To Burma

Burma Campaign UK: Press Release: Thailand Forced Deportation of Karen Refugees to Burma Starts 7am, Friday 5th February

Burma Centre Delhi: Press Release: Consultation meeting on 2010 election in Burma and its implication in Northeast India

Karen National Union: Statement: KNU position on Refugees

Karen Women Organization: Emergency appeal to the Royal Thai Government not to forcibly repatriate Karen refugees back to heavily land-mined zone

Karen Human Rights Group: Report: Unsafe return: Threats to human rights and security for refugees leaving Tha Song Yang District

Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma: Press Release: Burma Activist Questions Credibility of 2010 Elections

Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma: Statement: No point to recognize an election which serves the dictator

Network for Democracy and Development: Introduction to Weekly Political Events Regarding the SPDC’s Election (Burmese)

Network for Democracy and Development: Weekly Political Events Regarding the SPDC’s Election (Burmese)

Network for Democracy and Development: Monthly Chronology of Events – January 2010

World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers: Press Release:
World’s press condemns sentencing of Burmese journalists

29 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Letter to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva

This post is in: Weekly Highlights