More than 200 Karen refugees were forcibly sent back into Burma from Thailand on Saturday despite unstable conditions and fighting near their villages, according to border sources.
The Thai army forced refugees sheltering at a Buddhist temple and a Thai school in Pop Phra-District in Thailand’s Tak Province back across the border, telling them the situation had become stable.
“They [refugees] are afraid of the Thai army and were forced back even though they dare not return to their villages,” said Blooming Night Zan, the joint secretary of the Karen Women’s Organization.
Many of the refugees forced back across the border remained in hiding close to the Moei River on the Burmese side of the border, ready to flee back across the river if fighting breaks out nearby, according to Mahn Mahn, the director of the Back Pack Health Workers Team.
Over 1,000 Karen refugees fled to the Thai border near Mae Sot when fighting between Burmese junta troops and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) brigade 5 troops broke out early in December in Phaluu village, Kawkareik Township, 40 kilometers south of the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing on the Thai-Burmese border.
About 600 Karen refugees still remain in hiding at relatives’ homes on the Thai border as they are afraid they will be forced back.
“So many people illegally staying at the homes of their kin may cause problems in the longer term, but the refugees do not want to return as long as fighting frequently takes place near their villages,” said Blooming Night Zan.
More junta troops have deployed along the road from Phaluu to Wah Lay villages in an attempt to control the area and restrict the movement of Karen troops.
Meanwhile, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 7, which is active in the Manerplaw area, launched separate attacks on Dec. 22 and 23, according to the Thailand-based Karen Information Center.
During the attack, nine junta soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion No. 106 and four from Infantry Battalion No. 588 were killed by KNLA troops, border sources said.
Karen refugees return home after fighting ends
MAE HONG SON, Dec 27 – Thai authorities on Monday repatriated a number of Karen refugees to Myanmar after clashes between Myanmar troops and Karen rebels ended.
Thai paramilitary rangers, administrative officials, and officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) helped refugees at Sob Yuam military base in Mae Hong Son’s Sop Moei district to return home.
Sixty-five persons, mostly women and children from 13 families, have travelled back home in an one-hour trip by long-tailed boats provided by the Thai authorities.
On Saturday, in Tak’s Phop Phra district, 250 ethnic Karenni were sent back home through a temporary border checkpoint.
Although, some NGO activists called for the Thai authorities to let them stay longer, the government insisted that the repatriation must continue given that the fighting on the other side of the border had died down.
The repatriation came after some Thai villagers in North Valley sub-district expressed concern about a possible outbreak after deputy village head Sutham Suwansri, who visited the refugees, fell ill with Menincoccal disease.
Officials cleaned the temporary shelter after refugees left.
Fighting between Karen rebels and Myanmar armed forces erupted in November after its first election in 20 years, forcing thousands of Myanmar civilians to flee across the border into Thailand. (MCOT online news)