Thailand-Burma:Don’t Support Burmese Dissidents, Tak Governor Tells NGOs


By THE IRRAWADDY Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The governor of Thailand’s Tak Province has warned nongovernmental organizations based in Mae Sot not to get involved with Burmese opposition groups operating along the Thai-Burmese border.

Governor Samart Loifah gave the warning during a meeting with NGOs in Mae Sot on Monday evening, according to sources in the Thai border town.

The meeting was also attended by Thai police, army and immigration officials, as well as representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Thailand-Burma Border Consortium and members of camp committees from refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border, the sources said.

Thai authorities have also recently said that they will punish refugees who leave the camps to engage in illegal logging or get involved in the drug business.

Loifah told the NGO representatives who attended the meeting that he wanted them to carry out their work honestly, without getting involved in politics.

“I want to warn the NGOs not to help the Burmese opposition groups,” he was quoted by reporters in Mae Sot as saying.

Loifah said that action would be taken against NGOs that ignored his warning.

Sources said the governor’s remarks may have been prompted by the seizure of around 300 military uniforms and 262 shirts by Thai border security forces on May 11. Thai authorities did not disclose who was in possession of the uniforms and other items of clothing when they were seized.

However, Burmese dissidents in Mae Sot said that the warning was likely intended to help improve relations with Burmese authorities in order to increase bilateral border trade. The two countries have recently agreed to build another friendship bridge and create a second trade zone between Mae Sot and Myawaddy Township.

This is not the first time the governor has warned NGOs to stay away from politics. In January 2010, he warned Burmese humanitarian workers in Mae Sot that they could be deported if they get involved in Burmese political affairs. He also said that some humanitarian workers had illegally formed political organizations.

The Burmese government often asks Thailand to prevent anti-regime groups from engaging in political or military activities on Thai soil.