INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Unhcr Cautious of Spdc Changes

Published: Thu 21 Oct 2004 10:31 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS RANGOON 001375
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV, DRL, PRM
BANGKOK FOR POL HONNOLD
USPACOM FOR FPA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM PGOV BM
SUBJECT: UNHCR CAUTIOUS OF SPDC CHANGES
REF: A. RANGOON 1372 AND PREVIOUS
B. RANGOON 1136 AND PREVIOUS
C. STATE 184298
1. (SBU) Summary: UNHCR officials took the opportunity of a
senior-level visit to Burma to stress that the time was not
right for repatriation of Burmese refugees from Thailand.
However, they said that roving missions and assessments in
the eastern border regions were very important and would
continue. UNHCR is waiting to see if there will be any
impact of the SPDC's power shift on UNHCR's nascent efforts
in the East. End summary.
UNHCR Visitors Not Encouraging Repatriation
2. (U) UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Kamel Morjane and
UNHCR Director for Asia and the Pacific Janet Lim visited
Burma from October 18-21 to assess UNHCR's longstanding
operations in northern Rakhine State and some tentative new
operations along the eastern border with Thailand. The two
officials traveled to Tanintharyi Division (near the Thai
border), met with GOB interlocutors and a dozen partner NGOs,
and briefed the Chief of Mission and other Rangoon diplomats
on October 20.
3. (SBU) Mr. Morjane stressed repeatedly that despite the
agency's expansion into eastern Burma (pursuant to a February
agreement with recently ousted PM Khin Nyunt; ref B) UNHCR
was not encouraging the return to Burma of some or all of the
estimated 133,000 refugees in Thailand. He said that surveys
by UNHCR's local staff, and his own trip, reinforced the fact
that the region was not ready socio-economically and the
logistical infrastructure was not in place for the return of
"even 1,000" refugees. The Chief of Mission noted these were
crucial topics to explain clearly to donors, and lauded local
UNHCR staff for getting the message across well over the last
several months.
4. (SBU) Mr. Morjane said, however, that it was important for
UNHCR to continue its "roving missions" to Karen and Mon
States and Tanintharyi Division to provide some basic
assistance and prepare a more in-depth assessment of the
region should the political conditions for return improve
suddenly. He indicated that UNHCR's NGO implementing
partners, after a "frank exchange of views," urged the UN
agency to continue its activities in Rakhine State and in the
eastern border area.
Worrisome Changes?
5. (SBU) Mr. Morjane did express some concern regarding the
recent power shift in the SPDC, which saw the ouster of
former Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt (ref A). Because
the UNHCR's access to the Thai border regions is based on an
accord signed with Khin Nyunt, there is some uncertainty
whether the agreement will outlive his prime ministership.
Mr. Morjane said UNHCR intended to lie low for the moment and
not press the issue.
Martinez
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