Written by U Ne Oo on 1999-12-07
Dr U Ne Oo
18 Shannon Place
Adelaide SA 5000
7 December 1999.
Mr Johanshah Assadi
Rep.for UNHCR in Thailand UNHCR in Thailand
P.O.Box 2-121, Rajdanmnern
Bangkok 10200, Thailand.
Telefax: + 66-2-280-0555
Dear Mr Assadi:
I am writing to express concerns about alleged harsh treatment
in Maneeloy Holding Center by the camp authorities. Since the
siege by Burmese activists, the Thai authorities have imposed
rules upon these camp residents, it reported. The camp residents
allowed to go out and communication to ounication to outside has been cut-off.
new camp residents who came under recent arrangements [by]
Royal Thai Gove rnment are not receiving proper food and other
I appeal you to look into those matters and help solve the
particular, please ask the responsible Thai authorities to relax
imposed upon the camp residents. Please remind the Thai
such restrictions without obvious security concerns will amount
Thai Government oppression of refugees anof refugees and asylum-seekers.
Bangkok Post on 27 November reported that the Thai National Security Council Chief, Mr Kachadpai Burusphat, has requested the UNHCR to mediate for the solution of Burma's ethnic minority refugees. I am inquiring whether UNHCR has received an official request from the Thai authorities about it and, IF NOT, PLEASE IMMEDIATELY CLARIFY regarding that matter possibly through media.
I am very distressed that Maneeloy residents are receiving only 800 bahts as their monthly s their monthly subsistence allowance. Such amount of money seems to be too meagre an allowance and, therefore, please consider to topped-up a few more bahts if possible: Your kindness on this matter is much appreciated.
I also request the UNHCR in Bangkok to extend its protection and humanitarian assistance to Shan villagers who fled from forced relocation and fighting. In particular, the UNHCR should set-up appropriate camps in places that are closer to Shan State and Shan refugees should be given protection on a grection on a group basis.
On this occasion, I also ask the UNHCR in Bangkok to increase its resources for monitoring and screening of returning Burmese illegal workers. I am concerned that possible refugees and asylum-seekers may be forcibly repatriated by the Thai authorities.
In closing, I thank you for your kind attention to these matters.
Sd. U Ne Oo
cc. Ms Sadako Ogata, UN High Commissioner for Refugees,
(POSTED TO INTERNET ON DECEMBER 5, 1999.)
Thailand's inconsistent Burmese refugee policy
Since the `Vigorous Warriors' stormed Burmese Embassy in Bangkok, Thai authorities heavy-handed treatment of Burmese exiles and refugees, especially the Maneeloy camp residents, have been reported. On analysing unceasing plights of the Burmese refugees in Thailand, there has been little change in thinking of some Thai authorities about the problem of Burmese refugees during this decade.mese refugees during this decade.
Burmese refugees are considered little more than 'pawns' in the Thai authorities bid for trade and businesses privileges from the Burmese military. In 1988/89, General Chavalit turned Burmese exiles into the hand of SLORC in exchange for trade concessions [See Burma Action(SA) report to UNGA in 1993 in my home page]. During the period of 1992-1997, the Border Affairs Committee by Burmese and Thai Generals contribute no outstanding achievements tachievements towards bilateral relations. It, however, managed to pressure the NMSP to sign ceasefire agreement with the Burmese military --paving the way for completing the gas pipeline. In recent event, it becomes clear that in the wake of border closure by the Burmese side, the Thai authorities pressured Burmese students into Maneeloy camp and putting a "show of oppression" to appease the Burmese military. From what we can read from the detalied report of events at Maneeloy, there have been the deliberate provocations on the paions on the part of concerned authorities.
NETTING STUDENTS WITH RESETTLEMENT
After the Embassy siege in October, the Thai authorities have spread rumours that UNHCR will help resettled all Burmese exiles in Maneeloy camp-- in fast track --to Third countries. Regarding Burmese students in Thailand, there has already been an ongoing resettlement program, albeit in a small scale, under the auspices of UNHCR. The UNHCR could, in practice, appeal those countries to take a few more refugees to be resettled. Howevresettled. However, processing for resettlement of any refugee will take 6 months to 1 year. No matter how generous of the governments offer for resettlement, it is unrealistic to assume all Burmese students in Maneeloy to be resettled within two years. One must also takes into account of new refugee claimants coming into the camp during that two year. In any case, the Burmese exile groups, such as ABSDF in Bangkok, appeared to have treated with caution about Thai authorities' proposed resettlement program. Unfortunately, anyone ency, anyone encouraging Burmese to enter Maneeloy for Third Country resettlement could be guilty of co-conspiring with Thai authorities in netting the students.
To my understanding, most Burmese student used Maneeloy camp as a transit camp. Burmese student do not usually stay long in Maneeloy camp; they entered the camp only for a resettlement. By observing recent developments, the Maneeloy camp sets to become more of a permanent refugee camp. Because of the evidence of oppression and intimidation, we should ask the UN Specialthe UN Special Rapporteur, perhaps other NGOs too, to paid a visit to the Maneeloy camp. Camp authorities cutting-off the line of communication with the camp residents is a very serious matter.
RATIONALE FOR RESETTLEMENT ?
Apart from the technicalities of resettlement, one just wonder what is the rationale behind this 'Third country resettlement' of Burmese students in Bangkok. Obviously, the Thai government cannot get rid of all Burmese students in Bangkok by the resettlement alone. Even all Burmese in Maneeloy be in Maneeloy being resettled to the Third countries, there will still be Burmese activists in and around Bangkok. On the one hand, there are 110,000 Burmese ethnic minority refugees currently in border camps. Clearly, nothing could possibly be changed in Thailand by promoting the Third country resettlement. So is the repatriation of Burmese workers: so long as problems in Burma remain, there will continue to be illegal Burmese workers in Thailand.
There are incoherent statements from Thai NSC chief about the resettlement of Burlement of Burmese students: see following AFP reports of 29/11 and 18/11. On the other hand, it is not humane practice for Thai authorities to create hardship for the Maneeloy camp residents in the hope that the students be receiving speedy resettlement from Third countries.
Then, there has also been report about NSC Chief requesting UNHCR to mediate the repatriation of Burmese ethnic minority refugees (BKK Post 27/11/99). This is certainly good news ( but take with a pinch of salt, to be sure). NSC Secretary-General can be aneral can be assured there are no shortage of feasible solution for Burmese refugees at UNHCR. What is needed is the Thai Government to make a proper initiative with the United Nations to solve Burmese refugee problem.
DESPERATIONS IN MANEELOY
Apart from the issues of resettlement, there ought to be some immediate improvement to the living condition of Maneeloy residents. For example, there was an unfortunate incident in September 1999 of some camp residents protesting UNHCR staff for suspending the subsistence allowancestence allowance. Five UNHCR personnel were blocked by students who did not receive their monthly allowance of Baht 800 (about 20 USD). Maneeloy students who had participated in 9999 protest in Bangkok apparently were unable to showed up in time to collect allowance in Maneeloy; UN staffs consequently had threatened to cut-off this meagre allowance.
In this very case, I can understand the students' anger and empathise their desperation. I myself have been a long-term 'unemployed' and on government's welfare benefit of subsisteefit of subsistence in nature since 1993( i.e. from the time I was granted refugee status in Australia). Some unkind observers may ridicule these students squabbling with UNHCR for $20 allowance. Surely, what $20 could afford for one with ? A hair cut (you need it); one pack of cigarette or two (bad for your health); few meals at side-street noodle stall (precious escapes from the horrible camp-food!); and, perhaps, few drinks at local pub or a trip to cinema (that would be a luxury!!). Going down to Ratcg down to Ratchaburi town and sending email/post-mail would cost them quite a few bahts too. Despite $20 amount of money being humiliatingly small, to take away this subsistence allowance do constitute serious threat to the welfare of Maneeloy students. The reactions of students were understandable.
Since this payment to Maneeloy residents seems too small, we should ask the UNHCR in Bangkok to topped-up this allowance with a few more Bahts, perhaps. This certainly wouldn't help us being ridiculed as `international beggernational beggars' by the other camp (i.e. NLM). But it is the `truth' we will have to face with.
IN DEALING WITH PROVOCATIONS
For any activists and refugees, provocations by other political actors (media often included) have to be taken usually as 'occupational hazards'. In some cases, these political actors provoke us in order to cause reaction, to create diversion or distraction. In such case, the passive and non-violent resistance is most effective to counter the provocation -- for example, simp example, simply ignore provocation as much as possible. On the other hand, should there be a certainity of oppression and intimidation, we all must pull our resources together to repel the oppressors. The activists/refugees on the ground must be able to make judgment about suitable response for any such situation.
With best regards, U Ne Oo.
THE BANGKOK POST: UN AGENCY
27 November,ier">27 November, 1999
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has been urged by the National Security Council to negotiate with Rangoon the repatriation of 100,000 refugees in Thailand.
NSC Secretary-General Kachadpai Burusphat said it was hoped the UNHCR and other international organisations would push for the repatriation of Burmese who had fled over the past 15 years to escape fighting, through talks with the Burmese government.
"I have asked the UNHCR to come up with decisive resolutions. The UNHCR must consult international communities to find out how to play a greater role in Burma and give Burma assistance, to ensure the safety of refugees who return home," he said.
More than 750 Burmese students in Bangkok had so far registered with the UNHCR and would be sent to the Maneeloy centre in Ratchaburi, which houses 1,100 Burmese students.
The NSC chief said he
process to send all Burmese students in Thailand to third
begin by the end of the year.
AFP: US WILLING TO ACCEPT MORE EXILED MYANMAR DISSIDENTS
29 November, 1999
BANGKOK, Nov 29 (AFP) - The United States is willing to resettle more Myanmar dissidents exiled in Thailand, after havingd, after having found homes for more than 30 this month alone, US embassy officials said Monday.
"We are willing to process more Burmese refugees, were more to apply. We don't have a quota, we have never had a quota. If more were to apply, we are willing to consider it and settle more," said a US embassy spokeswoman.
"Capacity-wise we could do it," she said.
Earlier in the day, Thailand's National iland's National Security Council said a first group of about 20 dissident students flew to the United States on Sunday, and that a further 100 would leave in December.
However, the US embassy spokewoman said no students left that day and that the 100 figure was inaccurate.
"In November there were three different dates people went out. On November 4th four people went out, on the 11th 13 people, and on the 18th 16 people went out," she said.
A further 22 students would leave on December 2, she said, but added that the program was scheduled to be put on hold over the Christmas period.
She denied Washington was under pressure to accept more students as a result of the storming of Yangon's Bangkok embassy by gunmen claiming to be pro-democracy students.
"These are people who were in the pipeline well before the Burmese embassy thimese embassy thing even happened," she said, adding resettlement applications typically took three-to-four months to process.
The NSC recently set strict restrictions on the estimated 2,000 exiled Myanmar students in Thailand, after five gunmen took 38 people hostage at Myanmar's embassy here on October 1.
It set November 21 as a deadline for all exiled dissidents to register with the United Nations High Commisisoner for Refugees for settlements for settlement in third countries.
Most of the exiles fled here
a bloody 1988 military crackdown on Myanmar pro-democracy
AFP: RESETTLEMENT OF EXILED MYANMAR STUDENTS TO RESUME IN DECEMBER
18 November, 1999
BANGKOK, Nov 18 (AFP) - Thailand said on Thursday that a first group of 100 Myanmar exiles now staying in aow staying in a tense border camp would be resettled in the United States next month.
The exiles, the vast majority of whom fled Myanmar's military rule, would leave under a program launched by officials after relations with Yangon deteriorated sharply when dissident gunmen from Myanmar raided Yangon's embassy in Bangkok in October.
"Resettlement for these
in a third country will take place in December when 100 of them
are dueof them
to leave for the US," National Security Council (NSC) chief
Burusapatana told reporters.
\* texts deleted *\
HEADLINE: Exiled Myanmar students clash with Thai police
DATELINE: BANGKOK, Nov 16
BODY: Dissident students opposed to Myanmar's military government clashed with security forces atcurity forces at a tightly-guarded camp in western Thailand late Tuesday, exiles and police sources said. A member of the Burmese Students Association claimed that several students had been wounded.
"There was a clash between students and security officers," he told AFP from inside the Maneeloy camp.
He said a student identified as Nawe Aung was shot in the leg and another identified as Minn Lwin suffered a blow to the head. Most of the shots fiof the shots fired by security forces were directed into the air, he said.
Police in Ratchaburi province near the volatile Thailand-Myanmar border denied shots were fired and said there were no casualties.
"There was a quarrel at around eight o' clock this evening between Burmese students and police -- nobody was killed or injured," said an officer who identified himself as Lance-Corporal Winai at Pakthor district police station.
"It was not a big incident."
Political authorities in the province could not be immediately reached for comment.
Thailand ordered the resettlement in a third country of more than 1,000 students at Maneeloy after five gunmen, some former camp residents, seized the Myanmar embassy here along with 38 hostages last month.
The incident sent Thai relations with Yangon into a nosedive after officials here allowed the gunmen to escape to the Myanmar border in a helicopter in a deal which ended the 24-hour siege.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been seeking new homes for the dissidents and has started a registration program.
The dissident spokesman, who requested anonymity, said anger had reached boiling point on Moning point on Monday after a clash between a student and a villager. Both the injured students were still in the camp late Tuesday, he said and fellow students were outraged at the incident.
The camp has been tense for weeks. In one incident last month students locked up UNHCR workers at the camp in a dispute over allowances. Thailand warned exiles after that episode that they should not abuse its hospitality after fleeing the jurisdiction of Myanmar's military government.
A number of governments have agreed informally to accept students, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several European states without a long tradition of accepting refugees, the UNHCR has said.
Thailand has said it would like all the students classified as political refugees by the UNHCR to be sent to third countries within three years. The UNHCR has stressed that resettlement is voluntary and that it has already h has already helped to resettle 2,000 Myanmar refugees who fled to Thailand.
Around 1,000 students were originally at Maneeloy camp and will be registered for voluntary resettlement, the UNHCR said.
A further 900 have registered as refugees in Thailand but are not in contact with the agency. Eight to nine hundred more are expected to head for the Maneeloy camp shortly. Exiled students at Maneeloy, come from ethnic Burmese, Karen, Karenni and en, Karenni and ethnic Mon groups.The resettlement program has been taking place in parallel with another Thai drive to repatriate thousands of illegal immigrants to Myanmar.