Friday, February 25, 2011

EU officials to visit Thailand to review Burmese refugees

Bangkok - The European Union's human rights commissioner plans to visit Thailand next month for an update on EU-financed refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border, officials said Monday.

Kristalina Georgieva is scheduled to be in Thailand March 10 and 11 to visit border camps where an estimated 150,000 ethnic Karen have been living for decades to avoid fighting in neighbouring Burma, said David Lipman, EU ambassador to Thailand, Burma and Laos.
For the past two decades, the EU has been main source of humanitarian aid to a dozen border camps for tens of thousands of refugees from the Karen ethnic minority group of eastern Burma.
The Karen have been fighting for autonomy from central government authority since 1949, making it one of the world's oldest insurgencies.
Karen refugees who were residing in the border camps before 1995, have been made eligible for resettlement in the US and Australia.
Despite the regular departure of Karen refugees to third countries over the past decade, the camps' population has remained constant at around 150,000.
There have been reports of Karens paying authorities to enter the camps to become eligible for resettlement.
"We are conducting a new census for the camps, since nobody knows who is there," Lipman said.
EU special envoy for Burma Piero Fassino was also to visit Bangkok on March 8 to meet with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya for a briefing.
The EU is in the process of assessing its policy of enforcing economic and business sanctions on Myanmar's military leaders and some 2,000 "crony businessmen" known to be close to the regime.
The sanctions will come up for review by the EU at the end of April.
Burma held a general election on November 7 and will have a new government in place in March.
The ruling junta also freed democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest on November 13.
Western democracies had long demanded that military-ruled Myanmar hold elections and free Suu Kyi.