Karen Refugees Sent Back to Burma

Refugees from Karen State, Burma in a temporary shelter in Thailand. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

MAE SOT, Thailand—More than 1,000 refugees who fled to Thailand earlier this week due to armed conflict in Karen State, Burma were reportedly forced back to the conflict areas, refugees said.

“Since Thursday afternoon, Thai authorities told us to go back, saying the fighting is over. But actually fighting continues around our village. Therefore, we choose to hide in the jungle instead of going back home,” said a villager from Kyar Inn Seik Gyi Township, Karen State.

He added that forcing refugees back to the conflict area puts them at risk.

Following fresh armed conflict in Kyar Inn Seik Gyi township between government troops and an alliance between the Karen National Union and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, hundreds of refugees crossed the border into Thailand.

The refugees sought safety in Umphang Township, Thailand, which is about 210 km from Mae Sot, which sits opposite Burma’s border town of Myawaddy.

The number of refugees exceeded 1,000 on Thursday, according to aid workers in Mae Sot.

An officer in the Thai border patrol force, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said “Skirmishes are far from the border. The situation is not very concerning for the refugees. That why they have to go back.”

Since the beginning of the conflict, the Thai authorities have tightened border security and increased troops. NGO workers in Mae Sot said that except for UNHCR and the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, NGOs have been barred from assisting the refugees.


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