Karenni Refugees Clash with Thai Authorities, One Dies
By Shah Paung
December 17, 2007

Demonstrations by Karenni refugees in northern Thailand's Mae Hong Son Province following the death of one of their community, allegedly killed by a Thai security official, continued on Monday after a protest march turned violent on Sunday.

A leader of the demonstration, at the Karenni Camp 1, told The Irrawaddy that 4,000 refugees had marched to the office of the camp committee on Monday and had called on the Thai authorities to respect refugee rights and to refrain from using force to settle problems. About 3,000 refugees participated in Sunday's protest.

The Karenni refugees felt their rights had been abused on many occasions, the demonstration leader said.

Kitty McKinsey, Senior Regional Public Information Officer of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, told The Irrawaddy that the Thai authorities had been asked to determine what had happened and "to make sure that justice in done."

"We very much regret that a refugee was killed, and we send our sympathies to his family, of course," Kitty McKinsey said. "But really, I think, the main information on that has to come from the Ministry of Interior because they are the one who run the camp."

Thai authorities met camp representatives and assured them that the death would be investigated.

Tension mounted on Sunday after Thai security officials reportedly fired into the air to disperse a crowd of young people protesting against the arrest of a refugee after a dispute with a Thai official. One refugee, aged 20, died in the confrontation.

Two vehicles and about 30 motorcycles belong to the Thai security authorities were destroyed in Sunday's clashes.

There are two Karenni refugee camps in northern Thailand's Mae Hong Son Province, housing more than 21,000 refugees.


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