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Urgent appeal for protection of refugees from Shan State following forced relocation by the Thai Army



May 31, 2007




Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont

Government House

Phitsanulok Road



Subject: Urgent appeal for protection of refugees from Shan State following forced relocation by the Thai Army


We are writing to express our grave concern at the recent forced relocation of 91 refugees from Shan State by the Thai Army on the northern Chiang Mai border between May 25 to 30, 2007, despite the fact that these refugees were already on the Shan side of the border.


These refugees had fled from their homes in central and southern Shan State in early 2007 as a result of ongoing human rights abuses by the troops of the Burmese military regime and its allies. Denied access to refuge in Thailand, they had formed a settlement, together with about 300 other refugees, on the Loi San Zu hilltop, 200 meters inside the Shan border opposite Fang district of northern Chiang Mai province. This location is very insecure, and is within shelling range of a nearby United Wa State Army outpost.


On May 25, 2007, nine Thai military personnel from Rangers Unit 956, under the command of the Thai Cavalry Regiment Two Task Force Operation Team based in Chiang Dao district, Chiang Mai province, came to the settlement and ordered the section of the camp which was on higher ground, within eyesight of the Thai border, to move about 500 meters down the hillside to join the other section of the camp which was out of eyesight of the Thai border. They declared that "orders had come from above" and that the refugees should move because their current location was "too easily seen" from the Thai side of the border.


The 91 refugees, comprising 24 families, were ordered to move within five days, by May 30, 2007, despite the fact that the rainy season had already begun, and many of the refugees had only just finished constructing their houses. As soon as the order was given, the Thai Rangers immediately began forcibly dismantling some of the houses, and used their truck to transport some of the refugees' possessions to the new location. The next day, they returned again to oversee the continued dismantling of the refugees' houses, and on May 30, made another visit, with Thai military officers from Chiang Dao, to ensure that the refugees had complied with the orders. They told all of the refugees staying at Loi San Zu that they were not allowed to plant any long-term crops in the area, and could only plant short-term subsistence crops.


The 24 families, including women, children and the elderly, are now cramped into the existing houses of other refugee families in the new location, and face the arduous task of constructing their houses again during the rains. The new location is on a steep slope, which may be prone to subsidence during heavy rain.


We are shocked at the way these refugees have been treated. They have not only been denied access to refuge in Thailand, but now they have been forced to relocate at short notice without any valid reason. Having faced the trauma of fleeing from their homes because of the abuses of the Burma Army, the refugees have now been forced to undergo further suffering by the Thai Army, whose territory they did not even trespass upon.


We wish to express our deepest concern over this incident, which highlights the vulnerability of refugees from the ongoing civil war in Shan State, who are being denied their right to safe refuge. It is urgently needed for the Thai government to review their policies towards the refugees from Shan State and allow them access to refuge and protection inside Thailand, and the right to receive humanitarian aid.


Yours sincerely,


Shan Democratic Union (SDU)

Shan Health Committee (SHC)

Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF)

Shan Sapawa Environment Organization (Sapawa)

Shan State Organization (SSO)

Shan Relief and Development Committee (SRDC)

Shan Women's Action Network (SWAN)

Shan Youth Network Group (SYNG)

Shan Youth Power (SYP)



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