Don denies reports that Karen refugees were deported to Myanmar

SUNDAY, APRIL 04, 2021

Thailand attaches great importance to humanitarian principles, Foreign Minister

Don Pramudwinai said, rebutting criticism that Thailand had pushed back Myanmar people who had fled fighting in the country.

He said Thailand had long been caring of Myanmar. He said he was aware of the situation from the time he was a desk officer in Myanmar 50 years ago.

Don, who is also deputy PM, said whenever there is conflict in neighbouring countries, some people travel to Thailand. Injured people are treated in Thai hospitals. When the treatment is completed, they go back to their country along with those who were not injured.

"The situation has been like this for many decades except once. In 1984 there was a major violent incident, and hundreds of thousands of Myanmar people migrated to many provinces of Thailand, and nine refugee camps were established. Today most of the people have gone back to their homes, but some 90,000 Myanmar people live in these refugee camps along the Thai border," he said.

Don added that Thailand's situation was different from that of other Asean countries. "We have more than 2,000 kilometres of border with Myanmar and a long history of demarcation problems of which now only 50-60 kilometres needed to be delimited. There are also other problems such as contraband, weapons of war, and fleeing labour."

Explaining the latest events, he said the Karen National Union, which has long fought the Myanmar Army, had seized a Myanmar Army base. The army responded with aerial attacks.

"Several days ago, about 2,800 Karen people crossed over into Thailand. When the situation calmed down, only 216 people remained behind in Thailand. However, there were overnight attacks, and more than 1,600 people travelled back to Thailand.

"Some of the press panicked and people were highly concerned, mainly on social media; Thailand was criticised for pushing these people back to the country even though there was no difference in the events this time," he said.

“For Thailand, the events that happened in Myanmar have always been a unique way to deal with other Asean countries. Many people do not know the original history and don't understand that we always stick to the principles of humanitarianism. For this reason, Thailand has never had a problem with Myanmar,” said Don.

The minister has told Thailand's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York City to clarify the facts. However, current UN officials have not been aware of or experienced past incidents on the Thai-Myanmar border. Therefore, it will take time for them to know and understand the facts, Don said.

He added that Thailand had always given priority to the principles of humanitarianism.