Senators: Stop the relocation

THAM HIN REFUGEE CAMP (Thailand): A group of Thai senators has called on the government to stop relocating hundreds of Myanmar political dissidents to “concentration camps” along the Myanmar border, which suffer from disease outbreaks and a lack of water. 

The decision to move the refugees – many of them living in Bangkok – was made more than a year ago after their high-profile involvement in political activities, including demonstrations at the Myanmar embassy in the Thai capital. 

A total of 1,955 asylum seekers were transferred early this month under the protection of the UN refugee agency to three camps in western provinces after being given a March 31 deadline to register for the relocation at detention centres around Thailand. 

The senators urged the government to halt the programme during a visit on Friday to one of the camps, Tham Hin, in western Ratchaburi province. They also visited a second camp in Kanchanaburi. The purpose of the trip was to inspect the refugees' living conditions. 

“This is like a concentration camp,'' said Sen Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, who led the group of five senators. 

Tham Hin and the other camps lack electricity and water supply, have poor sanitary conditions and occasionally suffer disease outbreaks, said Kraisak and other officials. 

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's government has moved to crack down on political dissidents and rebel groups from neighbouring countries who operate from Thailand. Critics said his administration has tried to curry favour with Myanmar's junta in particular. 

The UN refugee agency has submitted applications for Myanmar asylum seekers to be resettled in third countries, but the timeframe remains unclear, said UNHCR spokesman Kirsten Young. – AP  

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