Thailand denies deportation of Burmese refugees blocked at border

Mae Sariang, Thailand — Thai officials refused to force more than 2,000 refugees fleeing Burma’s airstrikes back on Monday, but local officials stopped them at the border and sent them to an outside aid group. He said it was the government’s policy to deny access to.

Thousands of people over the weekend after a fighter attacked a village near the border held by troops from a Karen ethnic group that attacked a military base as a result of a Burmese military coup on February 1st. I ran away from (Myanmar).

Mark Pharmaner, head of the Burma Campaign UK, told Reuters that thousands of people had been forced to return to the Ee Thu Hta refugee camp on the Burmese side of the border. Another activist group gave the number as 2,009.

A video shot by Karen villagers and released by Reuters showed refugees boarding a boat under the supervision of Thai soldiers.

Karen refugees carrying their belongings can be seen on the banks of the Salwin River in Mae Hong Son
Karen refugees will be seen on March 29, 2021 on the banks of the Salwin River in Mae Hong Son, Thailand. (Distribution via Karen Women’s Organization / Reuters)

“Look, the Thai soldiers told the villagers to go back. Now see the old man have to go back. Look there, there are a lot of Thai soldiers,” said Karen’s villagers. I can hear you saying. Authorities have stopped Reuters reporters from accessing the area.

Thai Governor Mae Hong Son, Thichai Jindaluang, told reporters that refugees had not been pushed back. They were in a safe location on the edge of the border between Mae Sariang and Sop Moei districts, state media reported.

“Thai authorities will continue to take care of the Thai people, assessing the evolving situation and the needs of the field,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanny Sangrat said in a statement, pushing back Karenth. He also said that the report was inaccurate.

“Block those who have fled”

However, Sangkhom Khadchiangsaen, head of the Mae Sariang district, said at a local meeting that those fleeing should be stopped.

“All agencies need to follow the policies of the National Security Council, which means they need to stop those who flee and keep them along the border,” he said, referring to the government’s security coordinating agency. And said.

“The military has the primary responsibility for controlling the situation on the ground and must not allow personnel from UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), NGOs or other international organizations to communicate directly. This is absolutely forbidden. “

Tanny told Reuters that he had no further comments on what local officials said.

UNHCR did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The European Karen Network, a human rights group and a foreign-based support group, has criticized the Thai government.

“Thailand’s ruthless and illegal activities must now be stopped,” said Snai Fask, a senior researcher in Thailand at Human Rights Watch.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha said earlier Monday that the government was ready to accept refugees and rejected allegations that Thailand was supporting Burmese military junta.

According to the Burmese Political Prisoners Assistance Association, Burmese security forces have killed at least 459 people since seizing power in an attempt to subdue large-scale protests.

Armed forces that have been at war with ethnic armed groups for decades claim that the November elections won by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi were fraudulent and rejected by the Election Commission. I ran a coup.

By Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat