Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thailand: Burmese Refugees in Thailand - Protection Denied

Source: Refugees International

Washington, DC – While many celebrate the weekend’s release of Aung San Suu Kyi, tens of thousands of Burmese people need protection from the growing violence in eastern Burma, Refugees International (RI) said today. Ongoing fighting in eastern Burma has rendered thousands of people extremely vulnerable. Last week, some 15,000 to 20,000 people fled into Thailand, forming the largest influx of Burmese refugees into that country in the last five years. However, many were forced back by the Royal Thai Government in direct violation of international law. Additional reports indicate that Burmese currently seeking safety from the current fighting have not been allowed into Thailand.

“The release of Aung San Suu Kyi is an exciting moment, but it is also a reminder that the rest of the Burmese people live under a constant threat of violence and extreme repression,” said Michel Gabaudan, President of Refugees International. “We are extremely concerned that right now, thousands of people are fleeing their homes from fighting in eastern Burma. It is unacceptable that the Royal Thai Army is denying them the right to seek protection in Thailand. UNHCR should hold the Thai government accountable to its international obligations.”

While the situation is changing rapidly, tensions continue to build in eastern Burma. RI called on the Royal Thai Government to keep border crossings open and for the UN Refugee Agency to press the Thai government to ensure that Burmese refugees receive the protection they need. The U.S. and donor governments must also ensure that aid groups can continue to mobilize resources quickly as the fighting continues.

According to the Karen Human Rights Group, mortars and small arms fire were exchanged on November 14th in Dooplaya District. Civilians are digging holes to construct makeshift bomb shelters, hiding in temples inside Burma, or attempting to cross into Thailand. The Royal Thai Government has also publicly stated on November 15 that fighting has intensified and expects thousand of refugees to enter Thailand in the coming days.

“The Burmese people deserve to find a safe haven where they will be protected from further harm,” continued Gabaudan. “If we want to support the Burmese people, the U.S. government and international community must urge Burma’s neighbors to provide assistance and protection to those at risk.”