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No place to go: Burmese refugees can't find a home.

A man from Burma's Karen ethnic group sits cross-legged on the floor of the small thatched thatch  
1. Plant stalks or foliage, such as reeds or palm fronds, used for roofing.

2. Something, such as a thick growth of hair on the head, that resembles thatch.

3. Dead turf, as on a lawn.

 hut he shares with eight others in the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand. His eyes look tired as he tells his story.

"When they came to my village, there was no warning," he says. "They just started shooting. We ran into the fields, but we could hear them killing and torturing our animals. They poked out the animals' eyes and let them walk around before they killed them. But the saddest thing is, one old women was not strong enough to carry her two orphaned grandchildren when we ran. She had to leave them behind. The soldiers tied them up--they were three and four years old--and threw them into the huts they had set on fire."

The man says he believes that thousands of Karen refugees are now scattered and hiding in the rainforest. "Many are sick with malaria, and food is hard to find," he says. "The people know the Burmese army is advancing, but they are afraid to cross over to Thailand--they have heard Thailand won't take them. Some have tried to cross the river but the Thai army started shooting at them. They had to go back."

Recently, Thai security forces along the border have started arbitrarily denying sanctuary to new asylum seekers from Burma.

For the refugees who have made it safely to Thailand and are now residing in the twenty camps to the north and south of Mae La, life is not good. Thai authorities often mistreat the refugees, move them around, and occasionally send them back to Burma against their will.

Almost all ethnic minorities in Burma are on the run from Burma's military junta Noun 1. military junta - a group of military officers who rule a country after seizing power

clique, coterie, ingroup, inner circle, camp, pack - an exclusive circle of people with a common purpose
, the State Peace and Development Council The State Peace and Development Council (Burmese:  (SPDC SPDC State Peace and Development Council (Myanmar)
SPDC Shell Petroleum Development Company
SPDC Spontaneous Parametric Down Conversion
SPDC Self-Protecting Digital Content
SPDC Sokhna Port Development Company
), which used to be known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC SLORC State Law and Order Restoration Council ). In the past few years, the Years, The

the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiter’s life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]

See : Time
 junta has stepped up military offensives in Burma's ethnic regions in an effort to crush longstanding armed ethnic resistance.

According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 human-rights groups, at least 50,000 Burmese peasants fled their villages for neighboring countries in 1997.

Unfortunately, they're running at the wrong time. Burma's neighbors are no longer interested in taking in the refugees They want to do business with the Burmese government.

In July, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), organization established by the Bangkok Declaration (1967), linking the nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.  (ASEAN ASEAN: see Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
 in full Association of Southeast Asian Nations

International organization established by the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand in
), the regional economic club, accepted the Burmese government as a member. Thailand and the Burmese government are working together--along with multinational oil companies, such as the French giant Total and the U.S.-based Unocal--to extract oil and natural gas in the region. (Last spring, the Clinton Administration Noun 1. Clinton administration - the executive under President Clinton
executive - persons who administer the law
 imposed economic sanctions Economic sanctions are economic penalties applied by one country (or group of countries) on another for a variety of reasons. Economic sanctions include, but are not limited to, tariffs, trade barriers, import duties, and import or export quotas.  on Burma, but those sanctions did not apply to existing investments such as Unocal's.)

A worker for a nongovernmental organization nongovernmental organization (NGO)

Organization that is not part of any government. A key distinction is between not-for-profit groups and for-profit corporations; the vast majority of NGOs are not-for-profit.
 examines a crinkled diagram of Thailand's refugee camps. She jabs at two tiny dots on the map. "It's ridiculous how much worse they are treated. It's obvious it's because of the pipeline!" She is talking about the two Karen refugee camps in Kanchanaburi that suffer the worst conditions--Tam Hin and Don Yang, camps of 7,400 and 1,500 refugees, respectively. These camps are located in the vicinity of a billion-dollar natural-gas pipeline, the project of Total, Unocal, and Thailand's state energy company, PTT (1) (Postal, Telegraph & Telephone) The governmental agency responsible for combined postal, telegraph and telephone services in many European countries.

(2) See push-to-talk.

PTT - Post, Telephone and Telegraph administration
. This consortium is trying to meet Thailand's energy needs by funneling natural gas from an offshore drilling Offshore drilling typically refers to the act of extracting resources, primarily oil, in an ocean or lake. Controversy
As with all oil drilling, there has been a certain level of controversy surrounding the issue.
 site in Burma's waters. Ultimately, Thailand will consume the gas, but the pipeline crosses territory inhabited by ethnic Karen and Mon in Burma. In order to secure the pipeline and ensure a piece of the profits, the Burmese government is keeping a tight hold on this region and using forced labor to build supporting infrastructure.

The Karen refugees fleeing the pipeline region in the Tam Hin and Don Yang refugee camps are not permitted to build huts or establish schools. Sanitary conditions in the refugee camps are poor. The camps are overcrowded o·ver·crowd  
v. o·ver·crowd·ed, o·ver·crowd·ing, o·ver·crowds
To cause to be excessively crowded: a system of consolidation that only overcrowded the classrooms.
 and have few latrines. Refugees live under flimsy plastic sheeting throughout the entire rainy season.

But anything is better than going back to Burma. When the Burmese government's army mounted attacks in Karen state, it used a sledgehammer See Opteron.  strategy--taking whole villages in a day and shooting residents who ran.

The offensive happened so fast, Karen forces could fire back only as they retreated. With the speed of their attacks, the Burmese army managed to cut off most escape routes and trap many villagers inside Burma.

"The Burmese tried to run after us like a hunter tries to catch animals in the forest," says a sixty-year-old woman from Papun district. "Even after we had left, they were still looking for Looking for

In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with.
 us. We couldn't even think of building a house--if we heard a gunshot we had to flee." At last count, government troops had destroyed ninety-three villages in her region.

The government's 350,000 troops are using brutal tactics to stamp out to put an end to by sudden and energetic action; to extinguish; as, to stamp out a rebellion s>.

See also: Stamp
 longstanding armed ethnic resistance in the Shan, Karenni, Karen, and Mon areas. "Torture, rape, arbitrary executions, forced labor, abuse of children, looting, extortion, land confiscation confiscation

In law, the act of seizing property without compensation and submitting it to the public treasury. Illegal items such as narcotics or firearms, or profits from the sale of illegal items, may be confiscated by the police. Additionally, government action (e.g.
, religious persecution The neutrality and factual accuracy of this article are disputed.
Please see the relevant discussion on the .
, and other abuses continue to increase as the army continues its expansion," the U.N. Special Rapporteur Special Rapporteur is a title given to individuals working on behalf of various regional and international organizations who bear specific mandates to investigate, monitor and recommend solutions to specific human rights problems.  to Burma reported.

Tens of thousands of villagers in Burma's eastern border region are still dodging the Burmese government patrols. They are exhausted, sick, living on roots and leaves, and have nowhere to go.

The Karen Human Rights Group maintains that, although the Burmese government's stated objective is to defeat armed resistance forces, it systematically targets civilians as well. In the Papun district, "these villagers are not even being given orders to relocate," says a spokesperson for the group. "The Burmese government patrols simply move from one village to the next, shell each village with mortars without warning from an adjacent hilltop, then enter the village, shoot everything that moves and burn every house, shed, school, and church building without exception. Rice storage barns are carefully sought out and burned. Any villagers seen in the village or elsewhere are either captured or shot on sight without warning or interrogation interrogation

In criminal law, process of formally and systematically questioning a suspect in order to elicit incriminating responses. The process is largely outside the governance of law, though in the U.S.
. The government's aim in this case is obviously not to control the villagers or separate them from Karen forces, but simply to wipe them out; their apparent logic is that if there are no civilians, there can be no resistance."

The Burmese government has left little doubt in villagers' minds about its genocidal intentions. "The head of our village has to go to see the Burmese every day," says an elderly Karen man from the Dooplaya district. "He told us the Burmese said to him: `The Karen are like a tree. If you cut the trunk, branches will come up again. You have to dig out to depart; to leave, esp. hastily; decamp.

See also: Dig
 the roots so it will never grow again."'

Sometimes Burma's officials are even more blunt.

"One of our objectives is to make you become poor, flee, disappear, or die," said a Burmese light-infantry battalion commander in 1996 to a group of forcibly relocated villagers in Shan state, according to the Shan Independence, an independent Shan newspaper based in Thailand. "Because when you people in the country become poor, flee, disappear, or die, there will not be any rebels who can depend on you for their food, information, and guidance."

Some of the early refugees came to Thai soil in 1984 after a major Karen base camp fell to the SLORC. As Burma's dictatorship increased forays into ethnic territories, waves of refugees steadily increased, culminating in the exodus of more than 20,000 in February and March of 1997. By mid-year, there were well over twenty refugee camps in Thailand. These camps hold approximately 120,000 refugees from nearly every ethnic group in Burma, but are mainly populated by Karen, Mon, Karenni, and Burmese.

Now these refugees are no longer welcome. Thai officials carried out dozens of forced repatriations last year. Sometimes hundreds of women and children are repatriated, and sometimes only males over the age of fourteen are denied access, since Thailand considers them active resistance fighters. Groups of refugees have been pushed directly into war zones.

"I could hear the sounds of mortar shells and heavy weapons," a Karen boy said, according to the Human Rights Watch Asia report, "No Safety in Burma, No Sanctuary in Thailand." "The whole village left together and we fled.... When we arrived at the border, we saw that there were Thai officials waiting there. They pointed at some of the males trying to cross the border, including me, and said that we could not come across." The boy had no choice but to retreat to the closest village in Burma. But he had to flee again when mortar shells started landing there. He made a seven-day trek before he managed to find a place to cross again. After three months, he still had not reunited with his relatives.

One Thai truck driver assigned to haul men and boys back to Burma recalls, "It was so pitiful, they [the families] were hugging and crying before they were separated. I also cried with them."

General Chetta Thanajaro, the Thai army's commander-in-chief, has declared the latest influx of refugees "victims of fighting inside Burma and not victims of warfare." Calling the refugees victims of warfare could be a precondition for the involvement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (established December 14, 1950) protects and supports refugees at the request of a government or the United Nations and assists in their return or resettlement. , which would mean "internationalizing" the problem and "complicating" Thailand's relationship with Burma, according to the Thai government. The Thai government would also have to consult with the United Nations before performing repatriations.

Currently, Thailand and the Burmese government are cooperating on everything from road-building to the exploitation of natural gas, timber, and fish. "The growing hostility of the Thai authorities toward refugees from Burma has grown in direct proportion to the increased economic cooperation between the Burmese and Thai governments," says the Human Rights Watch Asia report.

In the past, refugees in Thailand enjoyed a high level of autonomy. They provided for their own dietary needs by foraging in the forests, and ran their own camp administrations. These liberties have slowly disappeared. Thai authorities have restricted refugee mobility, sealing off some camps and rendering their inhabitants
:This article is about the video game. For Inhabitants of housing, see Residency
Inhabitants is an independently developed commercial puzzle game created by S+F Software. Details
The game is based loosely on the concepts from SameGame.
 totally dependent on aid. For strategic reasons, the Thai army has consolidated or relocated some camps--particularly those housing Mon refugees. One community had to move five times in seven years.

Consolidation has led to overcrowding overcrowding

overcrowding of animal accommodation. Many countries now publish codes of practice which define what the appropriate volumetric allowances should be for each species of animal when they are housed indoors. Breaches of these codes is overcrowding.
, meager mea·ger also mea·gre  
1. Deficient in quantity, fullness, or extent; scanty.

2. Deficient in richness, fertility, or vigor; feeble: the meager soil of an eroded plain.

 food rations, decreased morale, and fear of infectious diseases. In some camps there have been reports of rape, robbery, and intimidation at the hands of Thai authorities.

Standing on the outskirts of the Mae La refugee camp, the Karen National Union The Karen National Union (KNU) is an armed group operating in the border area between Myanmar and Thailand. In Karen, this area is called Kawthoolei. The KNU has been fighting the Burmese government since 1948 through its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).  agricultural director looks at the winding asphalt road that refugees are no longer permitted to use. "Things are much worse," he says. "It used to be that we could go out of the camp and get vegetables to eat, but now the Thai authorities are preventing anyone from leaving the camp." He says the refugees must rely on rice, salt, and fish paste provided by the Burma Border Consortium, a group of nongovernmental relief organizations. He says he has appealed to the Thai authorities to allow the refugees to use small scale plots to grow some vegetables, but he has never received a response.

The vast majority of refugee camps are situated precariously close to Burma, and the Burmese army now has troops along almost the entire length of the Burma Thai border. On several occasions, Burmese-backed troops armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles have crossed the border and set fire to refugee camps. Even after camps have sustained onslaughts, Thai authorities have been noticeably unwilling to move them to safer ground.

In January 1997 alone, the Burmese government attacked the four camps: Wangka, Don Pakiang, Sho Kloh, and Mae La. Nine hours before Wangka was burned to the ground, the Thai commando unit abandoned its post, taking all equipment along. Thai forces stationed to protect the refugees at Don Pakiang also evacuated well in advance of the raid.

After the attacks, more than 7,000 refugees were left homeless and without belongings. In July, according to Images Asia and ALTASEAN, two nongovernmental human-rights organizations based in Thailand, three refugee leaders met with the Thai army and the Burmese government. During the meeting, the Burmese government told them that the refugees should return to Burma, but that the country has "no program to feed and care for those who have fled outside to other countries and brought disgrace to Burma. Upon return, those who have fled must be punished."

Some refugees do not even have a camp to go to. Northern Thailand has absorbed as many as 60,000 Shan and other ethnic minorities. Approximately 200,000 people from 600 villages are now living in fifty squalid relocation sites inside Burma.

Refugees have reported the decapitated de·cap·i·tate  
tr.v. de·cap·i·tat·ed, de·cap·i·tat·ing, de·cap·i·tates
To cut off the head of; behead.

[Late Latin d
 corpses of men, women, and children laid out in plain view along roadsides in Shan state as warnings to obey Burmese army commands.

Without access to established camps, the Shan refugees have little choice but to disperse into Thailand's vast illegal low paying labor market labor market A place where labor is exchanged for wages; an LM is defined by geography, education and technical expertise, occupation, licensure or certification requirements, and job experience , usually at construction sites or sweatshops, as agricultural laborers, or as sex workers.

Shan women and girls (some as young as ten) are entering the sex trade out of economic hardship and are particularly vulnerable to contracting the HIV HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), either of two closely related retroviruses that invade T-helper lymphocytes and are responsible for AIDS. There are two types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is responsible for the vast majority of AIDS in the United States.  virus. According to one Thai government agency involved in the prevention of AIDS, rates of infection for Burmese sex workers are very high, up to 80 percent in some brothels BROTHELS, crim. law. Bawdy-houses, the common habitations of prostitutes; such places have always been deemed common nuisances in the United States, and the keepers of them may be fined and imprisoned.

On Burma's western border, things are no better. Constantly fleeing ethnic and religious persecution, many Muslim Rohingya refugees have already been repatriated against their will by Bangladesh.

Rohingya are of Bengali descent. The Burmese government denies many Rohingya citizenship rights. In 1991 and 1992, the SLORC regime carried out a massive crackdown on the Rohingya, conducting summary executions and pressing others into slave labor. At that time, 250,000 to 300,000 Rohingya refugees crossed into Bangladesh.

Since then, authorities in Bangladesh have tried again and again to repatriate repatriate

To bring home assets that are currently held in a foreign country. Domestic corporations are frequently taxed on the profits that they repatriate, a factor inducing the firms to leave overseas the profits earned there.
 the refugees. When the first repatriations began in 1993 under the supervision of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, violence broke out and several people were killed. Bangladesh sent back about 200,000 Rohingya in the next three years. No mechanism exists inside Burma to assure safety for repatriated Rohingya. Many have disappeared.

Conditions at the Bangladeshi refugee camps barely meet minimum health and sanitary standards. "It was the closest thing to hell I've seen yet," says one worker for Images Asia. Recently, the United Nations High Commissioner called the repatriations unsuitable and recommended a government resettlement Re`set´tle`ment   

n. 1. Act of settling again, or state of being settled again; as, the resettlement of lees s>.
The resettlement of my discomposed soul.
- Norris.

Bangladesh's foreign ministry responded, "The refugees are predominantly economic migrants and any generous subsidies and campaigns about local settlement will work as a disincentive for refugees to return."

The Burmese government shows every sign of continuing to resist dialogue with Burma's legitimate leaders. In 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi Aung San Suu Kyi (oung sän s chē), 1945–, Burmese political leader.  (who later won the Nobel Peace Prize The Nobel Peace Prize (Swedish and Norwegian: Nobels fredspris) is the name of one of five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel. ) and the National League for Democracy won more than 80 percent of the vote in national elections. But the military junta has never allowed the party to take power. And the repressive government has been emboldened em·bold·en  
tr.v. em·bold·ened, em·bold·en·ing, em·bold·ens
To foster boldness or courage in; encourage. See Synonyms at encourage.

Adj. 1.
 by its new membership in ASEAN. The other countries in the economic association advocate "constructive engagement" and "constructive intervention with Burma." But they are hesitant to engage with Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.

"`Constructive engagement' has only helped the Burmese government indiscriminately exploit the country's resources in the same way it has attacked the peoples of Burma," Debbie Stothard, a spokesperson for ALTASEAN, testified to the United Nations. "It has helped in the creation of jobs which pay wages in the way of displacement, misery, death, and fear." Stothard said that "ethnic groups are increasingly making their support of the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi known."

Sao Seng Suk Sao Seng Suk , Prominent Shan leader also known as Khun Kyar [Born in 1935 - died 13 August 2007]. Sao Seng Suk was the sixth son of Shan leader Khun Kyaw Pu, who signed the Pang Long agreement in 1947. , a revolutionary ethnic Shan leader, hails the evolving cooperation among the National League for Democracy and ethnic leaders against Burmese government rule. "Politically we cannot give up. We are united in aspiration and deeds," he says.

In the end, Sao Seng Suk warns, "International recognition of an elected government is very important. If it is disregarded, the dictator lives on."

And the refugees will keep coming--with no safety in Burma, and no sanctuary elsewhere.

Jensine Larsen is a freelance writer specializing in Burmese issues. She recently returned from five months in Burma and Thailand, where she worked with human-rights nongovernmental organizations and visited refugee camps along the border. Her article "The invisible Shan Refugees" was published in September in the Thai English daily newspaper The Nation.
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Author:Larsen, Jensine
Publication:The Progressive
Date:Feb 1, 1998
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