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Burmese troops enter Thailand to ra
Subject: Burmese troops enter Thailand to raid ethnic refugee camp.
Burmese troops enter Thailand to raid ethnic refugee camp
February 27, 1997
1.49 p.m. EST (1849 GMT)
PU NAM RAWN, Thailand (AP) --
Burmese soldiers crossed into
Thailand on Thursday, trying to raid
a makeshift refugee camp housing
thousands of ethnic Karens, but Thai
troops halted the operation.
About 2,300 refugees had taken
shelter at an abandoned tin mine at
Pu Nam Rawn, an hour's drive west
of Kanchanaburi, 70 miles west of
The Burmese troops ran into a group
of Thai self-defense volunteers and
opened fire before retreating. Regular
Thai troops later took positions to
protect the refugee camp.
In the past week, the border opposite
Kanchanaburi has been transformed
into the southern front of Burma's
offensive to stamp out the Karen
National Union, which has battled the
Rangoon government for more
autonomy since 1949.
The Burmese army is using an
estimated 100,000 troops to crush
2,500 Karen rebels and allies along
the rugged border. Private aid groups
say 40 Karen fighters have been
killed in the past week and 200 Burmese soldiers were wounded
Some 15,000 Karens have been allowed into Thailand since
offensive began Feb 11. They have joined about 90,000 Karen
refugees who have lived in Thai camps for years.
But in recent days, Thailand has reversed its decades-old
practice of giving
refuge to the Karens. Border relief groups and Thai media
report that as many
as 5,000 refugees have been turned back toward Burma.
"We are deeply concerned by the reports, which we have
confirmed,'' said a
U.S. Embassy spokesman who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Television footage showed Karen refugees -- mostly women,
children and the
elderly -- being trucked to the border Wednesday and handed
over to Burmese
Thai military officials do not want
Karen guerrillas to operate from their
soil and claim to have received
guarantees from the Burmese for the
safety of returning refugees. The
rebels say the Thais are working with
the Burmese to wipe them out.
The refugees fear both the fighting
and the Burmese policy of pacifying
their region by forcibly relocating
villages. Human rights groups accuse
the army of random execution, rape
and slave labor.
The U.S. Embassy spokesman said
sending the refugees back "runs
counter to Thailand's traditional
policy of providing safe haven to
those fleeing persecution.'' A dozen
prominent international human rights
groups also urged Thailand to
Washington considers Burma's
military regime one of the worst
violators of human rights in Asia. It
has demanded that the ruling junta
negotiate a political settlement with
Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's
The rebels believe Thailand, which long used Burma's
rebellious ethnic groups
as a buffer against Burma, now wants to profit from a more
A $1.2 billion natural gas pipeline owned by the Burmese
French and U.S. oil companies is being built through Karen
territory to sell gas
to Thailand. The rebels vow to destroy it.
Thai companies also are bidding to develop a deep water
seaport at Tavoy,
240 miles southeast of Rangoon, and build roads to it through
[FoxNews, 27 Feb 1997].