Interviews with refugees in Tha Song Yang

The Thai government has decided to put on hold its plan to send back the Karen refugees to the landmined Burmese soil, probably due to much pressure from international community. Here are interviews with the refugees by the Karen Human Rights Group on why they do not wish to be 'voluntarily repatriated' by the Thai Government.

Interview | Naw K--- (female, 37), K--- village, Lu Pleh Township (Tha Song Yang new arrival site, February 2nd 2010)

1. Do you feel that you can stay here or do you have to leave?

Yesterday and today Thai authorities told us that we can't stay here anymore. I will have to suffer difficulties one more time. When I couldn't stay in my own village, I thought I could have stable living conditions if I entered and stayed in a refugee camp in Thailand. But now I suffer from the Thai authorities deporting me and their oppression is not different from the DKBA and SPDC.

2. If you feel that you have to leave, where do you have to go? Why do you think this?

For the time being, I don't know what to do. I absolutely dare not go back to my old village. I have no friends and relatives to stay with in Thai Karen villages. On both sides of the area [the Burma and Thai border], I can't find a safe place for me to stay. I am still waiting to see what will happen after when we receive our rations and after February 15th the refugees will spread out to different locations. I have to look for a place to stay in one location.

3. What have the Thai soldiers said to you about going back? Can you tell me exactly what they said, when and who said it?

Thai military soldiers told us that, "If you go back and stay in your own village, the DKBA and SPDC will not do anything to you. If you do not go back, we will ask big trucks to come pick you up and throw you all into the sea." The Thai authorities who often come are soldiers in black uniforms at --- [resettlement site, censored for security reasons] and some times this has included the Thai border patrol police. They come three times a day. Starting on the 1st of February 2010, at 10am, and between 5pm and 8pm.

4. Do you want to go back?

My current family attitude is: we don't want to go back to our village. Because, in the past, I couldn't live anymore in my village and I came to Thailand to stay in the refugee camp. If I go back again, it is like I will go back and be a slave for the SPDC and DKBA again.

Interview | Saw P--- (Male, 38), W--- village, Dta Greh Township (Tha Song Yang new arrival site, February 2nd 2010)

1. Do you feel that you can stay here or do you have to leave?

[The] Thais force us to leave --- [resettlement site] camp and I have to go back to my village but I dare not go back. My relatives contacted me and said, "Now the surrounding area close to your village is full of landmines and we do not know who and which groups planted the landmines. No one witnessed who planted the landmines. For this reason, do not come back at this time. If it is possible try to look for a suitable place for you there [in Thailand]."

2. If you feel that you have to leave, where do you have to go? Why do you think this?

If I go back now, I don't know the way to go back. Since when I came and stayed here, I have not gone back. I don't know if people use the old road or the new road. I do not have food there. I don't think that I can go back and stay peacefully. No one will take responsibility for our security.

3. What have the Thai soldiers said to you about going back? Can you tell me exactly what they said, when and who said it?

Thai authorities told us, "Now you can go back and stay in your village. The DKBA and SPDC will not frighten you anymore." They told us that we couldn't stay here anymore: "You can go back by yourselves. No need for us to send you back. But if you are injured or killed by landmines or if something happens to you, that is not concern with us. That is your fortune." [They came on] February 1st at 10 am and at 5pm.

4. Do you want to go back?

I don't want to go back. If I go back, I won't have food, shelter and there is no security for me in my village.

Interview | Saw M--- (male, 40), Bp--- village, Dta Greh Township (Tha Song Yang new arrival site, February 2nd 2010)

1. Do you feel that you can stay here or do you have to leave?

Now the Thai authorities came and forced us to go back and I am afraid of them very much. I dare not go anywhere now. They [will] force us to leave. The latest [they will force us to leave] is February 15th 2010. I made up my mind to go back and stay in one of the villages for a short time and when the rainy season comes, I will stay in one of the villages in Thailand.

2. If you feel that you have to leave, where do you have to go? Why do you think this?

I don't want to go back. There is no one to provide security for us. I made up my mind that I will not go back and stay in my village because of the current situation. I will stay in Thailand in one of the other places.

3. What have the Thai soldiers said to you about going back? Can you tell me exactly what they said, when and who said it?

Thai army scouts came and told us that we can't stay here anymore. "If we can't make you to leave, we will send you all to Myawaddy," said army sergeant Pi ---. I think, the DKBA gave money to this man and asked him to do this. During January he came to the camp everyday, especially on February 1st and 2nd he came three times a day. The time he normally comes is 10am, 5pm and 8pm.

4. Do you want to go back?

I don't want to go back to my village now. If I go back, I will not able to work for my livelihood very well and that is why I made up my mind that I will not go back.

Interview | Naw P--- (female, 40), Gk--- village, Lu Pleh Township (Tha Song Yang new arrival site, February 2nd 2010)

1. Do you feel that you can stay here or do you have to leave?

The difficulty I suffer now is a miserable thing for me. I can't live in --- [resettlement site] refugee camp anymore. If I go outside the camp, I can't think of where I will go and live. If I go back, I am afraid of the SPDC, DKBA and landmines. I can't figure out what to do.

2. If you feel that you have to leave, where do you have to go? Why do you think this?

If I go back to my village, I will have to do forced labour for the SPDC and DKBA: clear rubber plantation areas, clear the [military] camp compounds, be their messengers if they need people to put things on the trucks or bring rice sacks down off the trucks or other equipments. I will have to go and do that as emergency work. There is no good security condition for me. Anytime they need something, I dare not do it. But I can't refuse to go. I always have to go.

3. What have the Thai soldiers said to you about going back? Can you tell me exactly what they said, when and who said it?

The Thai army Black Rangers told us that we couldn't stay here anymore. On February 1st 2010 they told us, "You all must leave." I told them, "If we have to leave, it is better we leave the camp after we receive the rations. Now we don't have any food from last month." They asked, "When will you receive the rations?" I told them we usually receive rations at the end of the month. And they replied, "You can't do that. The latest day for you to leave is February 15th 2010. You all must leave the camp." I couldn't say anything anymore. They continued and said, "If you do not listen to us, we will send you to Myawaddy."

4. Do you want to go back?

I made up my mind that I will not go back to my village. It is difficult for me to go back. It is not easy for me to go back. I think, I will look for a place to stay here in Thailand that is suitable for me and if I am not able to do that, I will go back and stay in the Karen State in another location. I know that I can't stay but I will stay with a bad feeling. Now I strongly have hope, my country will find peace and I can go back and stay in my village peacefully.