Families Displaced by Burma Army Offensive Sent Back by Refugee Authorities – UNHCR Remains Silent

Displaced families, fleeing the fighting in northern Karen State, crossed into Thailand to find safety, but were turned away by camp authorities at the Mae Ra Ma Luang refugee camp last week.

The three families, consisting of 16 people were from the Papun area of Northern Karen State were forced to go after authorities refused to approve their pleas to stay in the refugee camp.

The three displaced families are from the Ler Mu Plaw area, Mutraw (Hpapon) district where recent fighting between the Burma Army and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) displaced thousands of villagers.

A statement put out by the Karen Peace Support Network (KSPN), a coalition of Karen community based organization, delivering aid to the displaced people said the families wanted to join family member living in the camp.

Naw Hsa Moo, a spokesperson for KPSN said that 16 displaced people, including nine children came to Mae Ra Ma Luang Refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border to take refuge. When they showed up to camp officials to register, they were being told their request could not be approved as new arrivals could no longer be accepted as refugees.

Speaking to Karen News, Naw Hsa Moo said.

“They fled for their safety and came here to take refuge with their relatives in the camp. Thai authorities said they could no longer accept new refugees, so they could not stay. Officials arranged cars to send them back to Burma. Each of the displaced families were given 3,000 baht and sent to the Ei Tu Hta IDP camp on the Burma side of the border.”

Ei Tu Hta internally displaced people camp is located on the bank of Salween River in the Karen National Unions’s Bu Tho Township, Mutraw District, Karen State. It was established in 2006 to house people displaced by attacks from Burma Army soldiers in the Taungoo district.

The Karen Peace Support Network explained that in March this year as many as 2,300 people from 16 villages fled for their lives because of the fighting outbreak between KNLA soldiers and Burma Army near Kay Pu and Ler Mu Plaw villages. The three families sent back by Thai authorities were part of that community.

Saw Tu Tu, from the Karen Refugee Committee told Karen News that they were monitoring the situation closely.

“We have already been told by township level [Thai officials] that they don’t allow new refugees. The UNCHR has been silent. We are paying close attention to the case.”

Previously, as a result of the fighting between Burma army, Border Guard Force (BGF) and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army in Mae Tha Waw region, hundreds of local villagers fled to the Thai side of the border. After a few months of refuge, they were sent back as the Thai authorities refuse them to take refuge for longer periods.

Currently, there are as many as 100,000 refugees from Burma taking refuge in nine refugee camps in Thailand, these are; Mae La, Umphiem, Mae La Oo, Mae Ra Ma Luang, Tham Hin, Ban Don Yang, Karenni No.(1) and No.(2) refugee camp.

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