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Plan to move Burmese refugees to border scrapped; Burma closes border post

August 12, 2000, Saturday

Burma closes the border at Mae Sot

Excerpts from report by Thai newspaper 'Puchatkan' on 10th August

Northern Region News Centre: The authority in charge of the Thai-Burmese border area has issued an instruction prohibiting demonstrations against the relocation of political refugees from Bangkok to the refugee centre at Ban Um Piam. The UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] has halted its relocation plan, claiming fear of exploitation by third parties. Rumour has spread in the border areas of Tak Province about the National Security Council's [NSC] plan to relocate Hmong from Tham Krabok to the province. The Burmese government has closed the border between Myawaddi and Mae Sot to discourage Burmese students who fled to Thailand from creating disturbance of peace in Burmese territory.

Regarding developments in the opposition by the local people in Tak to the policy, to be implemented by the NSC and funded by the UNHCR, to relocate 85 Burmese political refugees from Bangkok and other surrounding provinces to the shelter centre at Ban Um Piam, Phopphra District, Tak Province, on 4th August the Phopphra District administration issued a statement for dissemination by village and subdistrict chiefs.

The statement said: Referring to the NSC policy to relocate 85 Burmese persons of concern to the shelter centre at Ban Um Piam on 3rd August, which received resistance from the people in Phopphra District and nearby districts, the Phopphra District administration has been informed that the UNHCR has discontinued the relocation of the 85 Burmese to the shelter centre. For this reason, it is improper for any individuals or groups to persuade you or your family members to carry out a demonstration against the Burmese persons of concern, and their action may have hidden selfish motives. Moreover, third parties could exploit the demonstration by the masses for other purposes other than to oppose the Burmese students, to the detriment of the country and the demonstration participants themselves.

In any event, despite the confirmation by the local administration and the UNHCR that the relocation of the 85 Burmese political refugees has been abolished, the opposition by the local people to the relocation has not completely subsided. This is because the NSC still has the policy of sending some 400 political refugees, who earlier fled the Um Piam centre to find employment in Bangkok and the surrounding provinces, back to the centre. On 12th August, NSC Secretary-General Khachatphai Burutphat is scheduled to brief the local communities in Tak about the plan...

Moreover, rumour has spread in Mae Sot that in addition to the [abolished] planned relocation of Burmese political refugees to the shelter centre along the border, the NSC has a policy of relocating Hmong in Tham Krabok, Saraburi Province, to Tak Province. However, so far there is no confirmation of such policy.

According to a most recent report, on 9th August the Burmese government ordered closure of the border at the Thailand-Burma Friendship Bridge which links Mae Sot and Myawaddi and at other temporary crossing points on the Moei River. Foot as well as vehicle traffic were banned out of fear by the Burmese side of possible activities by Burmese students along the border. August the eighth is the 12th anniversary of the demand for democracy in Burma. Burmese intelligence units had information that anti-Burmese group which called itself the 8888 (which is derived from 8th August of 1988) might carry out disruption of peace.

From 8th August, Burmese students who had taken shelter in the Tak-Mae Hong Son border areas organized gatherings and events to pay respect to the fallen heroes. The federation of Burmese students in Tak issued a statement to express determination to continue the struggle against the Burmese government.