LAST MINUTE UPDATE ON THE SITUATION OF REFUGEES AT HALOCKHANI

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LAST MINUTE UPDATE ON THE SITUATION OF REFUGEES AT HALOCKHANI

Published date:
Tuesday, September 13, 1994

This is an update to information contained in the KHRG report "SLORC's Attack on Halockhani Refugee Camp", 30/8/94, which reported that four to six thousand Mon refugees had fled a Burmese Army attack on their camp at Halockhani, just on the Burma side of the border, where they had been forcibly repatriated by Thai authorities at the beginning of 1994.

An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group

 

This is an update to information contained in the KHRG report "SLORC's Attack on Halockhani Refugee Camp", 30/8/94, which reported that four to six thousand Mon refugees had fled a Burmese Army attack on their camp at Halockhani, just on the Burma side of the border, where they had been forcibly repatriated by Thai authorities at the beginning of 1994. The refugees fled back to the Thai side of the border after #62 Infantry Battalion of the Burmese Army attacked their camp on July 21 and were huddled in shelters around a Thai Border Patrol Police post, while Thai authorities used every trick they could think of to force them back across into Burma again. When the KHRG report was printed the refugees were still refusing to return and staying on the Thai side. Thai authorities had cut off all further food and medical supplies to them, and all foreigners and aid officials had been barred from the area. The refugees were surviving on existing rice stocks in their rice store, which was just across on the Burma side of the border (but at the end of the old camp closest to the Thai border).

The Thai Army has now forced the refugees back. Reports leaking out of the camp suggest that not being content with starving the refugees back by cutting off further food supplies, the Thai authorities devised a faster method: on August 31 they notified the refugees that the borderline had suddenly "moved", placing the refugees' rice storehouse on the Thai side of the border. Armed guards from the Thai Army 9th Division were then posted around the rice storehouse - some reports say there were about 10 armed guards. The Army told the refugees that no more food would be distributed to anyone until all the refugees had moved back across the border. At first the refugees survived on what little rice they had left in their shelters, making watery rice gruel and mixing it with bamboo shoots. However, on September 7th many began moving back across due to hunger. All of the refugees reportedly moved back by September 9th. The refugees from the Plat Hon Pai section of the camp, whose homes had been burned by the Burmese Army, built bamboo huts around the homes of the other refugees in the main section of Halockhani on the Burma side of the border. Now the Thais are allowing the rice in the storehouse to be distributed to the refugees, but they still have 7 army guards on the rice store who are controlling the distribution. They claim that these guards will be removed on or about September 15th. Now that all the refugees have gone back. Mon refugee officials and foreign doctors from Medecins Sans Frontieres are once again being allowed in, but all journalists and others remain barred from the area. The Thais claim this ban will be lifted in a few days. After impounding the rice supply, Thai authorities also threatened to arrest all Mon leaders and refugee officials, accusing them of encouraging the refugees not to go back. This threat has reportedly been lifted now that all the refugees have gone back. Several of the Halockhani camp leaders have asked to resign, reportedly in fear that the Burmese Army will come for them again.

At the same time, Thai authorities have continued dumping about 400-500 people being deported from their Immigration Detention Centres (IDC) every week in Halockhani, even after they had impounded the camp's food supply. The IDC deportees are given only enough rice for one day and told to get on their way back into Burma. Many of them are staying with the Halockhani refugees and hoping to sneak back into Thailand. On September 9th, Thai authorities told Mon refugee officials they also want to deport 2 villages of Mon refugees who fled the Three Pagodas Pass fighting in 1989/90 to Halockhani - the villages of Song Kalia and Man Ba Koke near Three Pagodas Pass.