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In the past, there has been little criticism of Thailand at
the Commission on Human Rights. This year, however, the 
Kingdom is beginning to reap the fruits of her closer
relationship with the Burmese military, as the international
community is faced with reports (denied in the Thai statement
below) of forced repatriation of Karen refugees and failure by
the Thai army to provide them with adequate protection against
cross-border attacks.
The first statement was made to the Commission by War
Resisters International, in response to a Statement (attached)
by Thailand.
Commission on Human Rights
53rd Session
Agenda item 10 
9 April 1997
                  Burmese asylum-seekers at risk
Mr Chairman,
War Resisters International welcomes Thailand's important
statement of the 2nd of April to the Commission on Human
Rights, reaffirming that the Kingdom "will continue to adhere
to its long-standing value of providing safe refuge and
humanitarian assistance to All fleeing unrest in neighbouring
countries". The significance of the statement derives not only
from its content, but also from the fact that it was made to a
United Nations body by an accredited representative of the
Royal Thai Government. The statement will help to clear up the
considerable confusion which has existed over the past weeks
about Thailand's past actions and future intentions regarding
the Karen and other ethnic groups who are seeking refuge in
Thailand from the current offensive and massive violations of
human rights by the Burmese army. Reports from humanitarian
organisations, other international observers and the refugees
themselves, but denied by the Thai army, claim that some Karen
asylum-seekers have already been subject to refoulement,
including rejection at the frontier. The confusion about
Thailand's future intentions has arisen from what appear to be
contradictory statements by various Thai military spokesmen
(some of which are attached to the written version of this
text). The asylum-seekers as well as the international
community will certainly be reassured by this definitive and
authoritative statement by the Royal Thai Government.  
It is also reassuring to learn that Thailand has "taken steps
to move Karen displaced persons to sites deeper inside
Thailand for better security". The murderous and destructive
armed attacks by the Burmese military and their agents on the
refugee camps just inside Thailand has been a source of great
anxiety to their residents as well as to relief agencies,
international organisations and Thai citizens living in the
area.  Such steps are in conformity with Thailand's ancient
Buddhist culture of hospitality, of being Kalyanamitra -- good
friends -- which Gautama Buddha prescribes as essential to the
Way of Awakening. Indeed, there are few cultures in the world
which do not place a high value on hospitality and the
protection of those in danger.  These values are also
reflected in the international human rights instruments, for
instance the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, to which Thailand recently acceded. The right to
security of person referred to in Article 9 has been
interpreted by the Human Rights Committee as requiring States
to protect asylum-seekers from cross-border attacks, while
Article 2 requires the State party "to respect and to ensure
the rights recognised in the Covenant to All individuals
within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction". 
The Thai statement informs the Commission that "in the current 
situation of Karen civilians from Myanmar, Thailand grants
them permission for temporary stay". Thailand's culture of
hospitality, as well as her treaty obligations and her respect
for the jus cogens prohibition of refoulement, including
rejection at the frontier, would preclude closing the border
to asylum-seekers, or requiring them to return to Burma until
the situation were truly safe. 
It is abundantly clear that safety cannot be guaranteed by a
mere reduction or cessation of the fighting. The Convention
Against Torture, in Article 3, which deals with  non-
refoulement, requires the State party to take into account
"the existence of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or
mass violations of human rights" in assessing whether return
to another State is safe, a pattern affirmed by All the UN
human rights resolutions and reports on Myanmar. The Karen and
Karenni seeking refuge in Thailand would be especially
vulnerable to persecution if they were returned to Burma,
since the Burmese military, rightly or wrongly, sees them as
family members or supporters of  resistance groups, which have
been in a state of hostilities with Rangoon for up to fifty
years. Given the abysmal human rights record of the Burmese
military, any such returnees would therefore be at risk until
a genuine peace settlement had been consolidated. 
We stress a GENUINE peace settlement which addresses the
political concerns of the Karen and other groups, since
cease-fires by themselves not prevent persecution. For
instance, the military junta, the State Law and Order
Restoration Council, or SLORC, maintains that it has a
cease-fire with the Karenni,  and yet over the past year over
half the population of Karenni has been subject to forced
relocation, forced labour, and other massive violations of
human rights. The same applies in Shan State, where the
figures are even higher. 
In conclusion, Mr Chairman, 
We recommend:
1) to the Commission, that in its resolution on the Situation
of human rights in Myanmar, it emphasise that until the
Government has concluded and consolidated a genuine peace
settlement with the Karen National Union and other ethnic
nationalities (and it is probable that only  a popular
civilian government will be capable of this task), Burma will
remain extremely dangerous to any returnees from Thailand;
2) to the international community , that it provide further
assistance to Thailand in order to share the burden of the
large-scale influx of Burmese into Thailand; 
3) to Thailand, that the Royal Thai Government continue to
extend its hospitality and protection to the Burmese seeking
refuge in Thailand; 
4) to SLORC , that it recognise that national reconciliation
and economic prosperity cannot be achieved by force, that only
a government with a high degree of popular support and
participation can achieve these goals, and that it therefore
honour its commitment to transfer power to the victors in the
1990 elections.  
Thank you, Mr Chairman
                  TO THE 53RD SESSION OF CHR*
Mr Chairman,
I take the floor today to exercise the right to reply in order
to clear up certain misunderstandings of the representative of
Fimarc, an NGO, in his statement yesterday (1 April 1997)
concerning the policy of Thailand towards the Karen displaced
persons from Myanmar.
Thailand acknowledges the concern of the international
community over the situation along the Thai-Myanmar border, as
well as the need for protection of Karen displaced persons
fleeing the fighting in Myanmar. We wish to reassure that the
Royal Thai Government had been taking steps to address the
plight of the Karen displaced persons long before the above
concern was raised. International aid agencies and relief
workers have also been granted access to provide food and
shelter for them at safe sites in Thailand for decades.
The recent incident along the Thai-Myanmar border is not new
to Thailand. Throughout the past decades, Thailand has, based
on its deeply rooted value instilled in every Thai individual,
provided considerate and generous hospitality to everyone
fleeing unrest from neighboring countries. At the height of
the Cold War, more than half a million of Lao, Cambodian and
Vietnamese displaced persons found their safe refuge on Thai
soil. A decade thereafter, there remain almost a million
people from Myanmar living in Thailand as illegal migrants and
displaced persons, posing enormous social, economic and
security burden on Thailand.
In spite of the above, Thailand will continue to adhere to its
long-standing value of providing safe refuge and humanitarian
assistance to All fleeing unrest from neighboring countries.
With regard to persons fleeing the fighting in Myanmar, the
following policies have been adopted:
- Thailand stands firm in her support for peaceful resolution
of ethnic conflicts in Myanmar.
- In the current situation of outflow of Karen civilians from
Myanmar, Thailand grants them permission for temporary stay
and allows a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
to assist them in the provision of necessities such as food,
medication, medical services, education, etc. Furthermore, the
Thai Government has taken steps to move Karen displaced
persons to sites deeper inside Thailand for better security.
Indeed, as recently as 25 March 1997, we have received a
letter from the UNHCR Regional Representative in Bangkok,
expressing the appreciation of the UNHCR for the actions taken
by the Thai authorities in the following words and I quote
"UNHCR is well aware of the difficulty in coping with arrivals
of large numbers of asylum seekers. We understand that the
Thai Government and NGO staff are working to upgrade sanitary
conditions in these encampments and this too is commendable.
Please extend to the responsible officials in the field, both
military and civilian, UNHCR's appreciation for their actions
that conform with the Royal Thai Government's stated policy of
granting temporary refuge to persons fleeing conflict in
Permanent Mission of Thailand
2 April 1997
* The above statement by Thailand was delivered in Geneva to
the Commission on Human Rights on 2 April 1997. The NGO
statement which inspired the reply was made by Fimarc
(International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements)
under the agenda item dealing with Indigenous Issues. The
section of the Fimarc statement referred to by the Thai
delegate was the following: 
" In Asia, indigenous peoples are the most impoverished,
marginalised and oppressed sector of society. In most Asian
countries, indigenous peoples are struggling to reclaim their
lands, their culture and their identity. But such struggles
are often repressed by governmental forces. Alarming news of
serious violations of human rights is coming out of Burma. The
Karen living in that country are often suppressed and killed
by Burmese troops. Refugees living in the most appalling
situation in Thailand are forced to return to Burma into a
very dangerous situation. About 5,000 Karen refugees were
recently returned forcibly from Thailand, according to a
document distributed by Associated Press". (unofficial
translation from the French)