Rumours of relocation prompt Karen refugees to flee camp

After they heard from rangers guarding the Nong Bua temporary shelter that refugees would be relocated to another temporary shelter at Usutha on 8 March, 29 refugee families have fled the shelter.

For over a month, the refugees have waited for the authorities to solve the problem of ‘forced repatriation’.  Rumours from military personnel forced them to flee to other Thai-Karen villages, while some of them went back to Burma in order to sneak back into Thailand at other spots.

There had been 105 families at the Nong Bua shelter, until rumours starting in early March prompted 29 families to move out between 5 and 8 March.

On the first day of each month, the Thai Burma Border Consortium distributes food to the refugees. So they waited for their rations, and then started to move: 6 families on 5 March, 13 on 6 March, 7 on 7 March, and 3 on 8 March, totalling 174 people, almost half of them children under 5 years old.

Most of them have moved to stay with relatives on the Thai side. Very few have gone back to Burma, where they could not farm for fear of landmines.

Other rumours from the rangers were that the refugees would be relocated to a remote camp in Umphang District, Tak Province.  Many refugees are afraid to be moved that far away from their homes, but have been consoled by their own leaders and other authorities who said that it was not possible as transportation would be too costly.

After a visit by the National Human Rights Commission on 18 Feb, one of the leaders of the refugees has been threatened and forced to leave the shelter. 

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