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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2737

Karenni refugee student killed by Thai militia

Bangkok, 22 December, (Asiantribune.com): On 15 December 2007, Thai paramilitary soldiers opened fire on a group of students in one of the refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border, killing one and wounding at least one other as they were celebrating an annual student sports day with their peers.

17-year-old Aik Oo was fatally wounded by members of the paramilitary force known as the Or Sor (Volunteer Defence Corps) who serve as guards to many of the camps. The shooting took place in Baan Nai Soi, also known as Karenni camp 1, Mae Hong Son Province at approximately 8:00 pm following growing tension between the soldiers and the students.

Enraged by the shooting, the students went on the rampage, destroying the Or Sor camp and causing damages estimated to be in the millions of baht.

Description of the Incident

The first night (14/12/2007)

On the evening of 14 December 2007, a concert organized for the students in Section 8 of the camp was broken up by members of the Or Sor after they reportedly beat one student about the head with brass knuckles, leaving him with a wound which required ten stitches.

The second night (15/12/2007)

Following the incident from the previous night, the students had requested the Or Sor not to attend the concert and had asserted that they would take responsibility for providing security at the event. The locally based Or Sor unit had reportedly agreed to this and had signed their consent. Despite this agreement the soldiers lingered on the road near the school where the concert was being held and harassed those who passed them.

It was reported that the soldiers had also fired their weapons into the air repeatedly. The students then came out of the school to confront the soldiers and ask them to go away, leading to an argument.

The soldiers soon retreated to their camp at Baan Kwai as more angry students began to mob around them. The student mob followed the soldiers back to their camp at which point they opened fire, striking Aik Oo in the neck. Official reports maintained that all shots were fired into the air. The students carried his body to the Camp Committee building where he died soon after. His body was left outside on the street all night.

Angered by the death of their friend the students began rioting and overran the Or Sor base. The buildings were ransacked and destroyed, approximately 30 motorcycles were smashed, and two pick up trucks were also overturned and damaged.

The third day (16/12/2007)

The Royal Thai Army (RTA) closed the camp and prohibited all Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and even UNHCR from entering the camp. The only persons permitted entry into the camp were Thai government officials and police officers. The Or Sor militia were withdrawn and replaced by members of the Royal Thai Army and Border Patrol Police (BPP).

The camp inhabitants were visibly upset over this latest in a long line of incidents involving mistreatment by the Or Sor. Many refugees had expressed concern over their future in the camp. Some of them had stated that if the Or Sor exercised their authority over the refugees according to the rule of law, incidents such as this would never occur.

A report by the Irrawaddy published on 19 December 2007 maintained that the Thai authorities were seeking compensation of an estimated two million baht for damages made to their property during the rioting. Who they would be seeking restitution from was not made clear. Representatives of the Karenni refugee community have stated that they will counter-sue for reparations for the loss of one of their community members.

Recommendations to the Royal Thai Government by the Rights Demanding Acting Committee of the Refugee:

1. Paramilitary Or Sor militia members should not be stationed within the camps and Thai authorities should not directly interfere with the administration of the camps;

2. Respect and defend the basic human rights of the refugees;

3. The Thai authorities should take full responsibility for the cremation of Aik Oo’s body

4. The Thai authorities should fully investigate the incidents which occurred on the evenings of 14 and 15 December 2007; and

In regard to the abovementioned demands, the Thai authorities should seek to resolve this issue in a manner that will allow the camp administration, local authorities, the UNHCR, and the Acting Committee to meet and negotiate

- Asian Tribune -

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