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                   Branch Office for Thailand
                 PRESS RELEASE 28 FEBRUARY 1997
     UNHCR has today requested the Royal Thai Government for
clarification of disturbing reports from our staff just
returned from the Thai-Myanmar border as well as NGOs and
other sources. The reports concern both the prevention of
Karen males above the age of 15 from entering Thailand and the
forcible movement of women and children from Kanchanaburi to
Ratchaburi province where it was confirmed that they were sent
across the border into areas either not far away from fighting
or in the general vicinity of outposts of the Myanmar army.
     According to the reports, approximately 900 Karen who had
sought refuge in Thailand on 22 February 1997 were
involuntarily repatriated on 25 February to a place in Myanmar
called Tha Ma Pyo. UNHCR opposes refoulement, that is, forced
return to the country of origin and especially so when the
movement is to a location considered dangerous.
     UNHCR has also expressed its concern to Thai authorities
over another group of Karen numbering, according to local Thai
military officials, about 2,000 or more sheltering in Phu Nam
Non, Kanchanaburi where security is reportedly poor.  UNHCR
has heard that there are plans to send these people across the
border as well. We ask that the Thai authorities desist from
such a move.
     UNHCR is very much disturbed by this information and
continues to be concerned for the lives of those who were
refouled. This Office finds it is difficult to understand
these denials of asylum and acts of refoulement given the
longstanding tradition of hospitality and asylum granting of
the Thai people and the Royal Thai Government's adherence to
international and humanitarian asylum and refugee principles.
     In addition, the Thai Government had recently announced
that it would relocate the border population farther inside
Thailand to ensure the safety of the Karen camps. We are
awaiting clarification from key senior officials on this
Retyped by Burma Peace Foundation, Geneva 2/28/97