Fwd: Security Alert!
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From: kapotati saw <kapotati7@...>
Date: Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 12:53 PM
Subject: Security Alert!
To: bi_bkk@..., surachai wanna <othello04@...>, naw thuleipaw <thulei75@...>, aimorn_singthep@..., kwekalu new <kwekalu@...>, a_keereekngwan@..., Saw Mort <email@example.com>, Cyrille <cyrillenikita@...>, hrd_mso@..., MSO Office <msojustpeace@...>, BI Karenni <bikarenni_office@...>
Dear all, this is the human rights briefing we have brought to the meeting on the 10th February. Following the repatriation of the refugee on the 5th the Karen CBO has work to collect the fact in cooperation with Friends of Burma. With the help of Friends of Burma and National Human Rights Commission we have a chance to hold the meeting at the National Human Rights Commission office at Bangkok.
The meeting include:
- National Human Rights Commission
- National Security Council
- Royal Thai Army (3rd Army)
- Ministry of Foreign Affair
- UNHCR (regional)
- Thailand Burma Border Consortium
- Karen Community Based Organization Emergency Relief Committee
- Ministry of Interior.
The purpose of the meeting is for all these groups to come together and present the current situation of the refugee repatriation together to discuss to find out the best solution. As the brief below there are four main issues that make the refugee not safe to go back at this moment.
- Land mines
- Food insecurity
- Army recruitment and
- Forced labor and forced extortion.
The Thai Army has reported that now it is safe for the refugee to return and those who went back they just decide and went back by themselves voluntarily. They did presentation with photos and stories they made up and all their presentation is opposite to the reality. When NGOs and CBO visited and talk with the people the army follow them every where and people dare not to talk openly. In the army presentation include the photos the foreigners visiting the other side (Karen State, Burma side). The CBO try to meet with these foreigners and they said that they Thai Army ask them to cross the border twice and take photos.
On the 18th February the National Human Rights Commission will visit the refugees in Nong Burma and U Thu Hta to meet with the refugees and talk with them. Just before this visit last week the Thai authority again warn NGOs and CBOs that they will check each office from the 15th to the end of February.
Just to inform you that this is the difficult time to work freely and openly. It is really a threat to groups and organization which are working on Human Rights Documentation and active for the refugees cases.
Plz see the brief below.
Karen Community-Based Organization
Emergency Relief Committee
Mae Sot, Thailand kcboerc@...
Karen Refugee Human Rights Briefing
10 February 2010
We are grateful to the esteemed representatives of Thailand’s National Security Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Royal Thai Army for your interest in the Karen refugees living in the Tha Song Yang district of Thailand.
The Karen Community-Based Organization Emergency Relief Committee (KCBOERC) is a consortium of health and human rights groups that formed in mid-2009 to serve the urgent needs of approximately 4,500 Karen villagers who fled on-going conflict and human rights abuses by the Myanmar Army and its ally, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA). An estimated 2,400 of the refugees remain in rudimentary shelters in Nong Bua and Mae U Su, two temporary sites close to the border in Tah Song Yang District, Tak Province.
The KCBOERC conducted in-depth interviews with more than 80 of the refugees, systematically documenting the risks that drove the villagers to Thailand—including landmine-related injury and death, forced conscription, forced labour, and theft of food.
While there is no active fighting currently in the region of Burma from which the refugees fled, the absence of active conflict does not imply that safe return is possible. Recent incidents and interviews gathered by KCBOERC document that the very same threats that initially drove the refugees to Thailand, including landmines and abuses by the SPDC and the DKBA against civilians, continue to be realities on the ground. Repatriation when the conditions for safe return have not yet been met will place the returnees at risk for abuse, injury and death.
Refugees tell us they would like to return home—but only if it is safe to live and work in their villages. At this juncture, conditions are not safe, and return would not be voluntary. Refugees who have “chosen” to return have told us that they are doing so only under pressure and intimidation by some Thai and DKBA authorities. Under these conditions, the international community is likely to view any repatriation as involuntary.
In interviews with KCBOERC members, refugees have cited four primary reasons preventing their safe return. These reasons include fear of landmines, forced labour, military conscription and food insecurity. Brief summaries are included below, and full details are available as appendixes prepared by KCBOERC.
Villages, agricultural fields and trails in the Ler Per Her area of eastern Burma have an intense concentration of landmines due to ongoing conflict involving the Myanmar Army, the DKBA, and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). There are virtually no de-mining operations in eastern Burma, and with three different groups placing mines, and no accurate mapping of mining operations, successful demining operations sufficient to ensure safe return are not possible.
Five landmine injuries have been documented in the Ler Per Her area—now controlled by the DKBA—with additional cases, including two deaths, reported in refugee interviews. Nearly all refugees interviewed by KCBOERC cited the threat of landmines as a factor in fleeing to Thailand in 2009. Even one such injury impacts the entire community, and can be devastating to a family’s resources and livelihood, as the family not only loses productivity of a household member but frequently is forced to also support the crippled survivor.
On January 18, 2010, a 25-year-old woman, nine-months pregnant, returned to her village in the Ler Per Her area to tend her family’s buffalo:
“I was walking on the path leading into the village, and I followed the buffalo just off the path and then stepped on the landmine. Half of my foot disappeared. I could not walk. I was worried, I feared for my baby. I was taken to Mae Sot hospital [in Thailand] and they took my baby out [C-section] on the same day. I don't want to go back to my village [in Burma]. I'm afraid to go back again. It is not safe anywhere.”
(See Appendix A for additional Landmine threat documentation)
Human rights organisations have extensively documented forced labour abuses against civilians by the SPDC and DKBA, including building and repairing military camps, portering supplies and clearing mines. Refugees interviewed by KCBOERC researchers repeatedly cited forced labour occurring in areas under SPDC and DKBA military operations as a primary reason for fleeing to Thailand in June.
These abuses have continued even in the absence of active fighting following the KNLA’s withdrawal from the Ler Per Her region in June, 2009. For example, every day since January 5, DKBA soldiers based at Wa Kaw Loo camp have forced 7 villagers to come to work repairing, maintaining and building the military camp. Because villagers in the area of Wa Kaw Loo fled to Thailand during June, the DKBA is currently forcing civilians from far way villages to travel and meet their forced labour demands. 
“Before I fled to Thailand, I was forced to work [for DKBA], constructing roads, building fences around the army camps, building a place for rice storage, carrying rations and cutting wood. . .If I am ordered to do construction [while I am away], my son who is 13 years old is too young to go instead of me, so my wife has to hire people. This is a lot of money.”
--Saw G----, 41, fled to Thailand with his family in January, 2010
(See Appendix B for additional Forced Labour documentation)
Refugees fleeing during June cited fears of being forcibly recruited into the DKBA Army. These concerns remain. The DKBA has a stated goal of adding an additional 3,000 troops, and refugees, villagers remaining in Burma and soldiers that have escaped to Thailand have all told KCBOERC groups that this is primarily being achieved through forced recruitment. Returned refugees, including children, face a real threat of being forced to join the DKBA Army.
“I leave because I am worried about my children. I have six sons. For every three boys, one has to join the DKBA army or pay 200,00 kyat per year. I do not want to go back, to taxes, forced labor, landmines, fighting. No one wants to go back.”
--Naw P-----, 38, fled from Mae La Po Hta camp
in 1998 when it was burned down by the SPDC. Fled Ler Per Her in June 2009.
(See Appendix C for additional Conscription documentation)
Food and Livelihood Insecurity
The majority of refugees in Tha Song Yang are subsistence farmers. Their food supplies had to be abandoned during flight. They have not been able to tend to their crops, and were not able to harvest their paddy in October. Because of this, it is likely that returning refugees would face substantial food insecurity. Compounding these difficulties, landmine risks will make gathering food dangerous or impossible.
“We do not have chance to work on our farm or field because we have to flee from our home town. Others [must] still provide us with foods and other supplies.We can’t make a living by our own.”
--Village Leader, No Bu camp
(See Appendix D for additional Food Insecurity documentation)
1) No refugees should be involuntarily repatriated. All claims of voluntary repatriation should be independently verified and the overall results made public. The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), and other concerned parties should be allowed to conduct standardized, confidential interviews with the refugees, and make the overall results public.
2) Refugees should be fully included in discussions and negotiations regarding repatriation and relocation.
3) Each family should be allowed to decide where they would like to go without pressure or intimidation. This could include continued refuge at the Nong Bua and Mae U Su temporary camps, where humanitarian groups should be allowed to improve housing and sanitation conditions and/or relocation to the Mae La Refugee Camp.
 Thailand Burma Border Consortium
 Interviews conducted by: KCBOERC 31 January, 2010 and 5 February, 2010; Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) 27 January, 3 February, 5 February; Human Rights Watch, 3 February, 2010.
 Landmine Monitor, 2009.
 Human Rights Watch. Interview conducted at Mae Tao Clinic, 3 February, 2010.
 Karen Human Rights Group
 Karen Human Rights Group, Bulletin, 27 January, 2010
 KCBOERC, Interview in Nong Bua area, 5 February, 2010
 Karen Human Rights Group
 KCBOERC, Interview conducted January 31, 2010Miku ChaiboonsomjidPlannig Committee and information and campaign coordinatorMobile: 66 (0)87 8423015Skype: patikwehAddress:Peace Way Foundation/Burma Issues235/26 Asoke Dindaeng RoadMakkasan, RajtaeveeBangkok 10400ThailandPhone: 66 (0)2 6411450Fax:66 (0) 2 6411449www.burmaissues.org
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Burma Issues/Peace Way Foundation
P.O Box 3, Mae Sod, Tak 63110, Thailand
+66 (8) 5 666 0732