Rep. Joe Pitts (PA-16) and 27 Members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Thailand imploring him to cease the impending repatriation of Burmese refugees.
In just a matter of hours, thousands of refugees could be forcibly repatriated from Thailand to Burma where they would be subject to violent abuse from the Burmese military regime and its allies. Over 4,000 refugees fled over the border in June 2009 to escape a military offensive aimed at internally displaced persons camps in Burma.
Starting at 7 a.m. local time (7 p.m. EST), the Thai government will evict Burmese refugees from temporary shelters in communities along the border. If forced to return, refugees are certain to face human rights abuses including forced labor, forced recruitment into the army, torture and execution. Additionally, refugees returning to Burma would be forced to navigate dangerous minefields that have already claimed many lives.
Rep. Pitts' statement follows:
"We are making a last minute plea to His Excellency, the Prime Minister of Thailand, imploring him to hold off on repatriating thousands of Burmese refugees. Thousands of men, women and children could be marched back into the hands of a military junta that tortures, rapes and kills its own citizens.
"In recent years, the United States has helped Thailand resettle tens of thousands of Burmese refugees. While we understand the burden placed on the Thai government, we urge them not to send these refugees back into the hands of their oppressors."