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45–503 CC








APRIL 16, 1997

Printed for the use of the Committee on International Relations

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BENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California
JAY KIM, California
TOM CAMPBELL, California
JON FOX, Pennsylvania
LINDSEY GRAHAM, South Carolina
ROY BLUNT, Missouri
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SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut
TOM LANTOS, California
PAT DANNER, Missouri
WALTER CAPPS, California
BRAD SHERMAN, California
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
BILL LUTHER, Minnesota
JIM DAVIS, Florida
RICHARD J. GARON, Chief of Staff
MICHAEL H. VAN DUSEN, Democratic Chief of Staff
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Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina
LINDSEY O. GRAHAM, South Carolina
TOM LANTOS, California
GROVER JOSEPH REES, Subcommittee Staff Director and Chief Counsel
ROBERT R. KING, Democratic Professional Staff Member
ELISE M. KENDERIAN, Staff Associate

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    Mr. Gary Lane, Senior Reporter, CBN News
    Mr. Steve Dun, Karen Refugee
    Mr. Soe Pyne, Director of the Prime Minister's Office, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma
    Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., Director, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma
Prepared statements:
Representative Christopher H. Smith, Chairman, Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights
Mr. Gary Lane
Mr. Steve Dun
Mr. Soe Pyne
Rev. Richard Ryscavage
Additional material submitted for the record:
''Voices From the Ashes—Communities Speak Out—In the Aftermath of the Destruction of Huay Kaloke and Huay Bone Refugee Camps'', translated from the Sgaw Karen version of the original text
The Government of Karenni, ''Karenni Independence'', January 20, 1997

House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights,
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Committee on International Relations,
Washington, DC.

    The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 12:15 p.m. in room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Christopher Smith (chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
    Mr. SMITH. The Subcommittee will come to order.
    Today's hearing is on the situation of refugees who have fled across the border from Burma to Thailand and on recent developments which make their plight even more urgent.
    On January 28 of this year, military forces allied with the illegal military Government of Burma, the SLORC, State Law and Order Restoration Council, invaded Thailand, attacked two refugee camps, and set fire to the camps. Thousands of refugees from the Karen ethnic minority group were left homeless, and at least three refugees were killed.
    A few weeks later, on March 9 and 10, the Thai Government forced several thousand Karen refugees back over the border into Burma. This forced repatriation took place shortly after a meeting between military leaders of the two countries at which the Thai Army commander publicly embraced the SLORC military leader who has spearheaded the brutal repression of the Burmese people, as well as the ruthless campaign against the ethnic minorities including the Karen.
    The Thai Government has since discontinued the forced repatriations. At a recent meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, the head of the Thai delegation stated that Thailand will continue to adhere to its long-standing value of providing safe refuge and humanitarian assistance to all fleeing unrest from neighboring countries. The statement added that Thailand had therefore granted the refugees permission for temporary stay. What remains to be seen is just how temporary this permission will be.
    Only 10 days before the statement in Geneva, on March 22, the Thai military commander in the border area had lectured a number of Karen refugees about how they had nothing to fear in Burma and should return immediately. When they declined, he told them, ''Where will you live then? You cannot live here.''
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    A few days later, it was reported that the Thai military had ceased its efforts at forcible repatriation and was once again being helpful to the refugees, but it has also been reported that SLORC forces are now being permitted to patrol Thai soil and to harass refugees with whom they come in contact. And as several of our witnesses today will testify, it appears that the Karen refugees whose houses were burned are not being allowed to rebuild them.
    I would like to ask each of our distinguished witnesses, as they provide additional details about this tragic situation, to keep in mind several questions whose answers should be important to Congress and to the President in determining the U.S. reaction to these events:
    First, why is the SLORC determined to persecute these people? Is this repression indistinguishable from that which has been imposed on ethnic Burmese or is it even more brutal? A related question is whether this is political persecution, ethnic persecution, religious persecution, or some combination of the three.
    The pretext for the cross-border attacks on the Karen camps which appear to have been perpetrated by a SLORC-backed militia composed largely of ethnic Karen is that most Karen, including the overwhelming majority of those who fled to Thailand are overwhelmingly Christian, a minority of the Karen are Buddhist, and the SLORC-backed Karen militia is composed of Buddhists. Is the religious difference just a pretext, or do the SLORC and their allies perceive Christianity as a particularly serious threat to their totalitarian state?
    Second, what motivated the Thai Government to change the former policy in which refugees were allowed to live in the border areas and were perhaps even regarded as desirable as a buffer zone between Thailand and the SLORC? Is this just a matter of wanting closer economic and political relations with the de facto Government of Burma and regarding the refugees as an irritant in this relationship? Or is it possible that Thailand has been motivated in part by the change in attitude of the U.S. Government and the international community toward forced repatriation generally?
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    The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees over the last several years has assisted the Government of Bangladesh in involuntary repatriation of many thousands of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Burma, and the Thai Government has recently carried out a forced repatriation of thousands of Vietnamese asylum seekers, again, with the assistance of the United States and the UNHCR.
    When one asylum seeker was killed during this forced repatriation, the United States and the UNHCR accepted the Thai military's explanation that he had died by jumping from a roof, despite reports that he had been beaten to death while resisting repatriation and despite the existence of a picture in which it appeared that he had suffered multiple wounds on his face, head, and upper body.
    Is it possible that the Thai Government finds it increasingly difficult to understand the U.S. and the UNHCR position that what is perfectly acceptable for the Rohingyas and Vietnamese—as well as for people who managed to escape from Haiti, Cuba, and China over the last few years, only to be forced back into the hands of some of the most repressive regimes in the world—is nevertheless unconscionable when applied to the refugees in Thailand? If this is the problem, is there anything we can do to convince the Thai Government to keep doing the right thing even if we ourselves have sometimes done the wrong thing?
    Finally, is the U.S. Government doing everything it can do to help these refugees and to persuade the Thai Government to help them? For instance, the State Department assures us that it is still spending the $1.5 million per year in assistance to refugees along the Burma-Thailand border which was specifically earmarked through fiscal year 1995, an allocation which, I might point out, will be restored by H.R. 1253, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for fiscal years 1997 and 1998, which was reported last week by our Subcommittee.
    Are we making it clear to the Thai Government that we will continue to assist these people so that they will not be a burden on Thailand? At the same time, should we also be making it clear that admission of Burma to ASEAN at a time when the illegal SLORC regime is not only persecuting ethnic minorities but also brutally suppressing the legitimate, democratically elected leadership of Burma could have an adverse effect on our relationship with other ASEAN nations?
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    Has our failure to impose the Cohen-Feinstein sanctions—which were passed last September and signed into law by the President, which, among other things, specifically require the President to prohibit U.S. investment in Burma in the event of large-scale political repression by SLORC—made it more difficult for us to argue that Thailand and other ASEAN nations should isolate the SLORC and provide continued assistance to its victims?
    Again, I welcome our very distinguished witnesses who are here today and look forward to their testimony and answers to the questions, and I would like to introduce them now to the Subcommittee.
    First, Mr. Gary Lane is a senior reporter for CBN News. He joined the Christian Broadcasting Network in 1984 and served as the Middle East correspondent. Mr. Lane was then assigned to CBN's Washington bureau in 1984 and served as national security correspondent and senior reporter. He was also the Washington bureau chief from 1989 until 1992 and recently returned from that troubled part of the world, and I myself saw his report, which I thought was very well done, that was broadcast last week on that network.
    Stephen Dun is a member of the Karen ethnic minority who fled with his family from Burma to Thailand. He was still living in the Thai-Burma border area in January when the Karen camps were burned. He recently came to the United States, where he is a student at Indiana University.
    Mr. Soe Pyne is the director of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma. This organization won the only free elections that Burma has ever had and then was suppressed by the SLORC. Mr. Pyne serves as the Washington representative for that organization.
    And finally, Father Richard Ryscavage is currently the director of the Jesuit Refugee Service and a member of the Society of Jesus. He formerly headed the Immigration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Catholic Conference and served as a professor at Oxford University.
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    If you could begin in the order that you were presented. Mr. Lane, if you would present your testimony.

    Mr. LANE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee.
    My name is Gary Lane. I am senior reporter for CBN News. That is the news division of the Christian Broadcasting Network. I have just returned from Thailand, where I visited several Karen refugee camps. The purpose of my visit was to gather information for a news focus report which was aired last Friday on the Family Channel and 142 CBN broadcast affiliates nationwide.
    When I arrived at Whay Kaloke refugee camp near Mae Sot, Thailand—this was in late March—I was amazed to see Karen children playing atop the charred ashen soil where their homes and a school once stood. The refugees at the camp detailed for me the horrors of the evening of January 28, 1997. Late that night, between 10 and 11 p.m., a fiery inferno set by members of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, the DKBA, and the State Law and Order Restoration Council troops swept through the camp, destroying in minutes what it had taken the Karen months to build.
    One woman, Rosalyn James, told me she was praying in her home when she heard gunshots. She looked outside only to see fire raging to the west and east of her house. She said the Burmese invaders first looted the marketplace and then set fire to the hospital, churches, and a school. Many of the refugees fled into the jungle. When they returned the next morning, they found nothing left. Many of the refugees just sat and stared at their incinerated houses. One man told me, ''You see, our humble bamboo homes could not withstand the flames of religious hatred.'' Another said, ''The Burmese invaders could easily destroy our church and our buildings, but they did not succeed in destroying the souls of our people. They cannot take that from us.''
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    The Thai Government has yet to give the refugees at Whay Kaloke camp permission to rebuild. That means about 1,000 Karen children have no building in which to attend school. The Karen place great value on education. This hurt them deeply.
    I talked with one man who constructed a small makeshift hut of bamboo and corrugated steel. It is only large enough to serve as a bedroom for his 15-year-old daughter. That means that Saw Kyaw So and his 9-year-old son, Lin Aye Mya, are forced to sleep together in a small teakwood cart. Mr. Kya So worries about the upcoming rainy season. He told me he and other refugees will be like drowned rats. One woman told me the Whay Kaloke refugees are living on the edge. They have nothing, cannot help themselves, and are just waiting for orders to rebuild.
    I talked with a retired American nurse who was visiting several of the refugee camps, Doris Downey of Indiana. She was also concerned about the upcoming rainy season. She said she expects cases of malaria and typhoid fever to multiply in the camp because mosquitos will be everywhere and germs will breed in the mud and moisture. Mrs. Downey worries about increased cases of diarrhea and dysentery.
    A doctor working for one humanitarian organization told me he was having difficulties getting medicine and medical supplies into his camp. He said the Thai authorities were holding them up. He also complained about not being allowed to bring in simple plastic piping to run water to his hospital from a nearby stream. He said the Thai authorities claimed Karen guerrilla fighters would make pipe bombs out of the tubing for use in their war against the Burmese Government. The Karen say pipe bombs can just as easily be made with hollowed-out bamboo which is available in great abundance in the jungle.
    I interviewed a number of Karen refugees who had just arrived at a new camp near Uhm Pang, Thailand. One woman who was 8 months pregnant traveled 3 days through the jungle to the Thai border. She says once her family finally made it to the border, they were turned away and forced back into Burma by the Thai soldiers. Her husband told me, ''Wherever we went, they tried to block us and drive us away back into Burma. They do not want to accept us in their country.''
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    One refugee told me that 10 of his friends were beaten by Thai soldiers as they tried to cross the border. Another said her family fled Burma after SLORC troops entered their village. Like the others, she said Thai soldiers drove her family back into Burma. They finally had to sneak into Thailand under cover of darkness.
    What is the Burmese Government doing to these ethnic minorities to cause them to flee across the border, and why isn't the current Thai Government being more helpful and hospitable? I am sure Members of this Subcommittee are quite familiar with the human rights violations being committed by the SLORC. They are well documented in the State Department's annual report on human rights and have been detailed by a number of human rights organizations like Amnesty International. I have heard many of these same stories.
    I have traveled to all the Karenni refugee camps, and I have made four trips within the past 4 years, and I have heard countless stories from refugees detailing how SLORC troops will enter a village, set fire to homes and churches, rape women, kidnap boys and young men, and force them to assume portage duties in the jungle. I have been told about the people being used as slave labor to construct railroads. I have heard the stories about pastors and priests who were forced at gunpoint to bow down to Buddhist idols.
    Last month I was granted an exclusive interview with General Bo Mya, the president of the Karen National Union and head of the Karen resistance. I asked him to explain why the Burmese Government continues to persecute the Karen. ''We are Christian,'' he said. ''This Burmese regime, the military, wants the whole nation to become Buddhist. They don't like the Christians.''
    It is obvious to me, after spending much time with the Karenni and the Karen over the past 5 years, that it is more than just a war against ethnic minorities, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee; this is also a religious war. And if it is not, why then are pastors and priests being forced to bow down to Buddha? Why at the Whay Kaloke refugee camp were churches burned while a Buddhist temple and monastery were left untouched? Why isn't the current Thai Government being more hospitable to the Karen and the Karenni? Why aren't they protecting them from these cross-border attacks?
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    General Bo Mya and the Karen always talk about the pipeline. They remind me about the $12.5 billion deal the Thai Government signed with the Burmese Government in 1995. The 250-mile pipeline will deliver natural gas from the Yadana field near Tavoy to Thailand's Kanchanaburi Province. That is not far from the famous River Kwai bridge. The Unocal and Total Oil Companies have interests in that 30-year deal. There are also many other business deals involving everything from teakwood to hydroelectric power, and of course this Committee knows that ASEAN is likely to admit Burma into its association either this July or December. The Karen say Burmese membership would provide the SLORC and ASEAN a number of trade benefits.
    President Bo Mya says he believes the current Thai Government, ASEAN members, and American business people are more concerned about making money than they are with human rights and the treatment of the Karen. For them, the principle is not important, he said. What is important to them is money for their own pocket. Even though they come from democratic countries, democracy does not matter and they don't care.
    I have just received some word from the Karenni today that the Thai news media reported international organizations were not allowed to visit the refugees. The Thai Army has stated these are displaced persons, not refugees, and that creates the technicality that forces the issue to become one of illegal immigrants, forcing them to be sent back to Burma.
    The United States, as most other countries, believes this is a border or internal conflict when, in fact, it is an invasion by military force into independent States, because before British Burma these were independent nations. There is border security which the Burmese have violated many times in the past year. Thai Government policy is to send the refugees back. Could this so-called internal conflict be since 1946?
    Our embassy is well aware of the Thai position on Burmese refugee. There are no political or religious freedoms for Karen or Karenni, and as of last week there was looting in the camp by Thai soldiers. That was one Karenni camp; I am told camp number 5. In that camp, the UNHCR makes it virtually impossible also for these refugees to get travel documents. Therefore, you won't see any of them, or very few of these leaders from the Karenni and Karen, come here to Congress and testify; they cannot get a passport.
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    What should the United States do? Well, I am a journalist, and I am not here to recommend a course of action. I was invited here to inform you of recent developments. I can tell you what the Karen and prodemocracy forces want from the United States.
    The refugees at the Whay Kaloke camp say they want the United States to put political pressure on Thailand so that the Karen will be allowed to rebuild their schools and homes in that camp before the heavy rains come in June and July. Others would like to see their camps moved deeper into Thailand, away from the border. They don't want to be forcibly repatriated to Burma; they wish to remain in Thailand. They want the Thais to protect them from cross-border raids. They want a safe haven from oppression.
    Some would like to see the UNHCR provide relief and protection. General Bo Mya recommends more extreme measures. He says economic sanctions alone will not be enough. He would like to see the United States do as it did for Haiti. He thinks U.S. troops should be sent in to restore democracy to Burma.
    Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung Sun Su Kyi recently urged the United States and others not to give up, to keep pushing for democracy in Burma. And finally, some of the Karen and Karenni have told me they have great admiration and respect for President John F. Kennedy. His pledge that America would pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assume the survival and success of liberty inspired the Karen and Karenni. They reminded me that their people fought for freedom alongside the Americans and British against the Japanese in World War II. They say they are true friends and lovers of democracy. ''When will America remember the words of JFK? they asked. When will the United States act to do what is moral and right rather than that which will make it money?''
    Mr. SMITH. Mr. Lane, thank you very much for your testimony. Your very incisive piece was a wake-up call to a lot of people who were not paying close attention to what was going on in the area, although there have been some articles in other media like the New York Times.
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    I think it is important that maximum focus be placed on this, especially, as you pointed out in your piece, with the rainy season coming. People are at risk. We see what can happen to long-standing strong brick and mortar in parts of our United States when heavy rains come. Well, that pales to insignificance when compared with the monsoons faced by this refugee population and what can happen in terms of homes being washed away, people being made more sick who are already very vulnerable. So I thank you for your excellent piece and for your testimony.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Lane appears in the appendix.]
    Mr. Dun, if you could proceed with your testimony, we would appreciate it.


    Mr. DUN. Mr. Chairman and Members of the hearing, thank you very much for giving me the chance to present the situation on the Thai Burma border and inside Burma. I present the situation as a Karen from the area, and I have spent most of my life in this area too.
    The military regime, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, or SLORC, has had a long history of human rights violence of its own people and other ethnic peoples of its country. There are many examples of such violations and atrocities.
    On January 28, 1997, at about 2200 hours, a group of 100 SLORC troops from the 259 Light Infantry Regiment of the 101 Division and some men from the DKBO entered the Whay Kaloke refugee camp near Mae Sot. After looting whatever they could put on to three pickup trucks, they torched the houses; 690 of the 1,240 houses were burned. That same night, the Don Pa Kiang camp, which is about 26 kilometers from this camp, north, was also burned; 611 of the 709 houses were looted and burned.
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    The reason behind these attacks is to force the refugees to flee back into Burma where SLORC can use them as forced laborers on development projects. Thailand, which used to provide a safe haven for the refugees, is now cooperating with the SLORC and preventing anyone from crossing over. It also has plans to repatriate the existing refugees. This is because the present Thai Government is intent on developing a good relationship with SLORC for economic reasons.
    SLORC has intensified its attacks on civilians inside the country where economic development projects are planned. In areas where the Unocal-Total gas pipeline project is to be implemented, people have been forced to relocate without any compensation. Just last Saturday and Sunday, a total of 400 new arrivals from the Mergui-Tavoy area crossed the border into Thailand.
    SLORC has also had a policy of ethnic cleansing. Recently we have had more reports of villages being killed and villages being burned systematically. On March 28, 1997, SLORC troops from the 772 Tactical Operations Command of the 77th Division burned the Day Daw Khee village in the Papun district. They threw two children aged 3 and 4 years into the fire. Their charred remains were found later.
    Those who benefit from the investments are not the people of Burma but only a few top SLORC leaders, so suspension of investments in Burma at the present time would help to keep from supporting the oppressive government.
    The people resist government for survival. The Karen are the last group of ethnic people holding out. The Karens have a long history, nearly 50 years, of fighting alongside the allies in World War II and have always held out against communism when it prevailed in the area. The Karens have been against the drug trade and even have done sentences for trafficking. SLORC, on the other hand, has a history of being Communist, trafficking drugs, for which I believe the United States is a major target, and has ignored the desires of the people of Burma by disregarding the results of the elections.
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    The U.S. Government should take a serious look at acknowledging the existence of such a government. The ethnic peoples of Burma are willing to work out the problems peacefully, but the SLORC, since it has been in power, is intent on wiping out all resistance and thus ethnic people coming and working together.
    Mr. SMITH. Thank you very much for your testimony, and thank you for your willingness to bear witness to what you have seen and the ongoing agony of your friends and country people.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Dun appears in the appendix.]
    I would ask Mr. Pyne if you would make your presentation.


    Mr. PYNE. Mr. Chairman, thank you for giving me the chance to testify here.
    I represent the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, which is made up of elected representatives from the National League for Democracy and other democratic parties which won the elections in 1990, but the military junta has refused to acknowledge the results.
    The NCGUB has a keen interest in the affairs of the Karen and other ethnic nationalities. This is because we are a firm believer in a call for dialog, a tripartite dialog between the leaders of the democracy movement, the ethnic leaders, and the military. We believe that that is the only solution to the problem that the country is facing today.
    As far as the refugees are concerned, a major offensive was launched by the Burmese military junta against the Karen people in early February. Even though the exact number of refugees fleeing the fighting is difficult to know, different sources visiting the sites along the border, including Thai and international journalists, have put the number of refugees at tens of thousands. The situation should be of utmost concern to all of us not just because a large number of people have lost their relatives, their homes and property, and become refugees, but also because of the brutality of the goal behind the assault.
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    The KNU, or the Karen National Union, which has been fighting for equality and self-determination, has had four rounds of cease-fire talks with the ruling military junta, known as the SLORC or the State Law and Order Restoration Council. The talks have failed because the SLORC only wants the KNU to surrender on its terms. The KNU refused to give in to the demands, but it was expecting another round of talks to take place. SLORC, however, unilaterally broke off the talks and launched a brutal assault without warning.
    It was obvious from the very start that the objective of the latest offensive is not just the KNU, it was the Karen people, whom SLORC accuses of being the support base for the KNU. This is reflected in the January 28 attacks on the three Karen refugee camps at Whay Kaloke, Wangkha, Huai Bok—Don Pakiang—and Mae La.
    Altogether, the camps housed 36,000 refugees inside the Thai territory. However, it was left undefended by the Thai security forces, and thousands of Karen refugees were left homeless and destitute as SLORC and its puppet forces torched the camps.
    Also during the latest offensive, there have been reports of extrajudicial killings, rape, looting, and plunder at many Karen villages inside Burma and along the way to the Thai-Burma border. Many villages were also burned and destroyed by the SLORC troops.
    The offensive is intended to be a warning to the other ethnic nationalities who have entered into cease-fire arrangements with the SLORC but are expressing their dissatisfaction with the outcome of these arrangements.
    In other words, the growth in the number of Karen refugees at the Thai-Burma border is not accidental, it is the result of a brutal but well thought out plan of destruction by the SLORC.
    Another problem that the Karen refugees are facing is the Thai authorities. The Thai authorities are refusing to acknowledge the refugee status of the Karens or to let the UNHCR help them.
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    Depending on the army commander in charge of the region concerned, there were reports about Karen refugees, particularly males of fighting age, being forced back into war zones inside Burma. The refugees were also prevented from building any shelter out of wood or bamboo, which are considered by the Thai authorities to be permanent structures.
    There have been instances of NGO's and other official teams being denied access to the sites where the refugees are staying. The Thai Government has denied that the refugees were turned back. Earlier in March, however, many sources, including press reports, on different occasions confirmed that the Karen refugees were indeed pushed back into Burma.
    Thailand is well known for its humanitarian policy. It has always sheltered refugees from Indochina to Burma. The NCGUB urges the United States to request Thailand to continue that humane policy toward the Karen refugees and to allow NGO's and the UNHCR to assist them.
    The refugee issue in Burma is the result of political problems. Without the will to resolve the existing political issues, there can never be a long-term solution to the refugee problem. The KNU and the Burmese democracy movement have on many occasions offered to hold talks with the SLORC for national reconciliation. The solution to achieve peace and harmony is already there. The United States and the international community must step up their efforts aimed at pressuring the SLORC to enter into dialog with the democracy movement and the ethnic nationalities. That process will resolve the refugee problem and ensure peace and harmony in Burma and the region.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this hearing and for showing an interest in Burma.
    Mr. SMITH. Thank you very much, Mr. Pyne, and I appreciate your good work on behalf of the democratic opposition and again appreciate your willingness to testify and to again bring these facts to light for the Congress.
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    [The prepared statement of Mr. Pyne appears in the appendix.]
    Father Ryscavage.


    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I represent the Jesuit Refugee Service which has been working with the Burmese since 1988. It is part of the Burmese Border Coalition, and my testimony today is really drawn from the statements and interviews I have had over the past couple of days with our field workers both in Bangkok and those that we could communicate with in the border area.
    I am also drawing on the work of our partner agency, Human Rights Watch. We fund a position, the Jesuit Refugee Service in London with Human Rights Watch, to specifically research and look at this question of the Burmese border issues and the question of refugees in Thailand. And I am finally, also, drawing on the expertise of the Baptist World Alliance which has for so many years been present to the Karen in particular and have much to say and much concern about this issue.
    I am not going to reiterate what you have already so clearly heard from my colleagues about what happened the past few months in the border area. I would like to stress a few things. First of all, what at least I am picking up from people that know a great deal about the situation is that the geopolitical situation has changed dramatically in the past 60 days and that this is going to have dramatic effects on the refugees as well as the overall settlement of the issues in the region.
    And by that, of course, I am meaning that SLORC now, for the first time, controls all the border areas and therefore is face to face with the Thai military across the border and with the refugees. So this was not the case before. There was a kind of vague buffer, in a sense, that was created by the insurgency movements, and this is more and more, now, not the case, and into this new reality I think we have to inject much more urgent concern for protection for the refugees—and this is what the refugees themselves seem to be saying.
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    I think mixed in with the geopolitical context is very much coming to the fore this economic question which I think has been raised by many of the other panelists. It has, yes, to do with the famous pipeline that is being built. But it also, I think, has deeper connections with the whole desire to bring Burma into the emerging economies of Southeast Asia and the willingness to kind of overlook the suffering in the region for the sake of that basic economic goal.
    I think this poses a great danger in the area of repatriation, and I would like to say a few words about that before I go on, but first just a few to add a little bit to the question of the conditions of the refugees right now. I am particularly speaking of the newly arrived refugees.
    My people in JRS in Thailand are telling me that actually there are some people who have actually been 6 weeks sleeping on the ground. They are not allowed to have platforms to even raise themselves above the ground. The plastic sheeting that is allowed is not allowed as walls. Therefore, the rain—in fact, the rain apparently is already coming, and one field worker told me, she said, ''Father, you wouldn't believe the conditions that they are living under. They get soaked even now by the rain. There is no protection at all.'' Medical supplies are in very short supply. The condition of the water supply is very questionable, and many of them are getting sick.
    There are also questions that have been raised already about NGO access to the people themselves. We are not in contact with many of the people that are suffering right now, which is itself a problem, I think.
    The Baptist World Alliance mentioned to me the fact that these people are really prisoners of their geography. They do not want to go back to Burma, but they cannot go forward into the future either. And the BWA, for example, would be happy to offer them resettlement opportunities, education, ability to reconfigure their lives if they have to leave, but, in fact, because of the Thai policies, they are not allowed to move along.
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    This is the Karen and the Karenni, but there are other groups for which we are concerned. One of them is a group called the Shan. This minority ethnic group from Burma has traditionally been looked on not as refugees but as seasonal labor, illegal migrants really in the country, and never allowed to establish refugee camps, nor are they recognized by the UNHCR as refugees, but now I understand that 150 a day, approximately, Shan are crossing the border, and these new arrivals are not seasonal laborers but young men, for example, with grandmothers or women with children and other vulnerable family members.
    This suggests that they have a need for protection and that they are not in search of labor as much as they are reacting to the SLORC policies of forced relocation, often in connection with the pipeline construction. And there is no recognized access to these people and certainly no NGO access.
    The other group JRS is particularly concerned with and has been concerned with is the Burmese students and prodemocracy groups inside Thailand. They are under great pressure right now. Our office in Bangkok reports that increasing numbers of Burmese students have actually arrived in the capital since the attacks in the last couple of months, and some have occurred in areas heavily populated by the students, resulting in the closure of some of the student camps.
    We estimate that there used to be about 10 student camps. Now about 600 of those students have been moved into the ethnic minority camps, and these are quite distinct groups, and it presents a problem in itself.
    Aside from the physical conditions, the security, and the status of these groups, the basic fear centers around voluntary repatriation right now, so-called voluntary repatriation. In fact, many are afraid that the terrible physical conditions being imposed will be used as an incentive to make them return to Burma, following the model of the Mon repatriation which Thailand points to as having been a success but which we point to as having been an illusion in many ways.
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    The question I have is, are structures actually being prepared right now to facilitate a Karen-particular repatriation if peace unfolds at the border? We have indications that that is true, and one of the field workers mentioned a 3-hour lecture by Thai officials in one of the camps where the basic message was: Life is too difficult in these camps; you must return home.
    Because Thailand is not a signatory to the International Refugee Convention, protection and assistance programs have tended to operate very informally and outside the framework of international protection. So because of this, governments and the UNHCR must be especially sensitive to the safety and dignity issues in the questions of repatriation and particularly, of course, voluntariness. Voluntary repatriation is welcome when conditions have changed sufficiently, but we have no indication that sufficient changes have been made to justify this.
    I would also raise the question of the role of UNHCR in this. The UNHCR Asia Pacific head met with the SLORC first secretary last month and offered him basically the UNHCR's assistance when conditions are peaceful along the border to help with the returning population. It seems to me that this is undermining the very role of UNHCR to uphold the protection principles when, in fact, it is already sending the message that, it is all right to go home, we will help you with the problem when the refugees go home.
    Thai thinking seems to be based on the assumption that, once the insurgency has been defeated by SLORC, peace will reign in Burma and the refugees can go home. In fact, the opposite may be the case. Once SLORC secures the border areas, we have every indication that human rights violations will escalate, creating more refugees for Thailand to contend with.
    And the real issue here, finally, is SLORC, and I think that is where the focus needs to be in many cases. It has created, in fact, the refugee flow. It is, by its own record of actions, anti-Christian and anti-Muslim. And we are concerned basically about its acceptance into ASEAN, into the economic fraternity of ASEAN, before it has, in fact, made its credibility clear about religious rights and the rights of minorities in its own country.
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    Pursuit of economic interests should not be allowed to overshadow the abuses taking place in the region, and we are surprised not to find the Administration speaking here today. We would urge Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to convey in the very strongest possible language that it is futile to try to solve the refugee crisis in the region without addressing the root cause of human rights abuses which are going on inside Burma today.
    Thank you.
    [The prepared statement of Rev. Ryscavage appears in the appendix.]
    Mr. SMITH. Thank you very much for your testimony and for the many keen observations you made and for reporting back what people on the ground are reporting to you as to what is happening.
    Let me ask a couple of questions. Just for the record, we are talking about how many refugees that are actually in the camps? 100,000? Is that a fair estimate?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. We are operating on the figure of 114,000.
    Mr. SMITH. Does that number comport with your estimations, gentlemen? Is that number swelling? Diminishing? Is it pretty stable?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. If you look at it over the past 6 months, we were basically talking about 97,000, I believe, back in September. I think that was our operational numbers that we were talking about. So it certainly has been increasing, not decreasing.
    Mr. SMITH. Is there a sense as to how many people may have perished since September?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. Those figures I don't have.
    Mr. SMITH. If you come by those, that would be helpful to see what, unfortunately, the death rate may be.
    The Thai Government, as you know, recently moved the Karen refugee camps further from the Burmese border in order, they say, to improve security. Do any of you take that as a sign that forced repatriation may not be something that they are seriously considering? Do relief organizations now have access to those camps now that the camps have been moved back and been relocated?
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    Mr. Dun.
    Mr. DUN. I would like to answer that question. The camp that they have designated for all the other camps to move is further away from Mae Sot, and the roads are really bad, and during the rainy season it is pretty much inaccessible.
    What we see is that this is a preparation for the repatriation, because once you get all the camps together in one place, it will be easy to just push them over across the border instead of having to push all these different camps around at different times. When you have all the other camps concentrated in one place, it is easy to just push it across the border.
    Mr. SMITH. Has the Administration conveyed its abhorrence of a forced repatriation to the Thai Government, to your knowledge?
    Mr. DUN. No, I have not any news about that.
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. As far as I know, it has never been explicitly raised as an issue as such. There was concern over the conditions of the refugees but not the repatriation.
    Mr. SMITH. Mr. Dun, what you are suggesting is that this is just a step in a staging for a forced repatriation?
    Mr. DUN. Yes, because 2, maybe 4 weeks ago, we have had reports that the local authorities in Mae Sot met with the Burmese authorities from Wout Dee, the town across from Mae Sot, and they have agreed that within the next couple of months they would start repatriating the existing camps.
    Mr. SMITH. If forced repatriation occurs, what is the likely consequence, particularly to the leadership in those camps but to the average person as well, if they are sent back to the SLORC? What happens to those people?
    Mr. DUN. It is pretty positive that the average person will be put into these work gangs and work on either the pipeline or the railway or other development projects, like renovating whatever touristy attractions.
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    As for the leaders, since most of the camp leaders have had some affiliation with the KNU, it is pretty sure that either they will be imprisoned or killed.
    Mr. SMITH. If the average person resisted the forced labor, what is the consequence there?
    Mr. DUN. No question, killed.
    Mr. SMITH. And let me just ask about the pipeline. Unocal, which it is my understanding is an American company, is involved with that. And another project allegedly involving a U.S. entity is a Smithsonian Institute project. There have been suggestions that that is one of the reasons, as you have indicated on the pipeline, why these people have been sent out, but then they will be used as slave workers. Have Unocal or the Smithsonian responded to any of this? Have they shown any interest in the ways and means as to how their wildlife refuge or, in the case of the pipeline, how the right-of-way will be established?
    Mr. DUN. We have had no contact whatsoever from either the Smithsonian Institute or the Unocal company. What is usually done is, most of the contact is through SLORC, and maybe Unocal has some program going on for the relocated people or the people affected by the pipeline, but none of this has ever, ever trickled town to the people in the area.
    Mr. SMITH. Mr. Pyne, would you want to respond to that?
    Mr. PYNE. Unocal has always pointed to all the development programs it has been carrying out in the region, like having some schools built and all, but if we look at the overall picture, the fact that a lot of people have been moved out and have become refugees is because of the pipeline alone.
    The military government is trying to clear the area. The Thai Government has an interest in having that gas flow to Thailand. So that is how the change of policy from the Thai side as well as the number of increase in refugees has come about. There is no doubt about it. The oil pipeline is contributing directly to this problem of the Karen refugees.
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    Mr. SMITH. Do you believe, all of you, that the Thai Government is aware of the fire storm of criticism it is likely to face should it mount a forced repatriation, especially as people learn about what the prospects facing those returning refugees will be?
    I mean, in terms of this Congress, I do believe that there will be a very strong condemnation. I believe it will be bipartisan. I think liberals, conservatives, and moderates will join in chorus, and hopefully the Administration will join in, exercising its bully pulpit in opposition too. Although it hasn't happened fully yet, do you think the Thai Government understands the political damage it will do to its political reputation and honor?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. There is a discrepancy between what the official Thai Government says on the one hand and what the local authorities do on another. And a certain amount of activity is allowed to go forward at the local authorities, and then the Royal Thai Government intervenes and says something and holds it up. But in the meantime, there is kind of a process going on here, you know.
    I think because Thailand is not a signatory to the convention there are no formal monitoring structures, and therefore there are no real accountability structures, so a lot of things could go on without the international community necessarily even seeing or knowing what is happening. I mean, access questions are very serious ones, I think, in the border area.
    Mr. SMITH. Mr. Lane.
    Mr. LANE. Mr. Chairman, I can tell you what the Karen told me on that matter. I was told that the economy in Thailand has been in a bit of a decline in the last 2 years so the Thais are perhaps more sensitive to reactions from the international community that may affect trade and their economy. But, again, the Karen say it is fine for the United States to speak loudly and to object to these practices, but words without actions don't go very far, do they? That was their comment.
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    Mr. SMITH. Mr. Lane, you had mentioned in your testimony the fact that the Karen were telling you that this is a religious persecution, not just an ethnic but a religious persecution as well. Perhaps you might want to elaborate on that. And I wonder how the other witnesses feel about that.
    We remember so well the Bosnian situation which was at first crafted as religious, then ethnic, and it really was a combination of the two, first against the Catholics and then against the Muslims in Bosnia, the Catholics in Croatia. Would you speak and elaborate a little on that issue of religious persecution?
    Mr. LANE. I would say each time I have visited the Karenni and now the Karen——
    Mr. SMITH. How many times have you visited?
    Mr. LANE. With the Karenni 4 times in the last 4 years, and in March, last month, I was in with the Karen my first time visiting their camps.
    But each time I have visited these people, they have stressed to me that this is a religious war: Sure, we are ethnic minority, but because we are Christian people, we believe in God-given rights and we are lovers of democracy. And they continue to tell me that SLORC is antidemocracy. They want to force these people to become Buddhists. And we have heard time and again the stories of priests and ministers being forced to bow down to Buddha.
    Why are churches burned? I cannot tell you how many villages that I have been to, stories by villagers that SLORC has come in and burned churches.
    In the Whay Kaloke camp on the evening of January 28, I was told that these troops went to the Buddhist temple and monastery. They were ready to set fire to the monastery, and the monk there that was running the monastery said: ''Are you going to burn my monastery? Are you going to burn the temple?'' And they said: ''Why do you want to know?'' And he said: ''Because I will have the monks flee into the jungle if you do it.'' And they said: ''Don't worry. We are not going to touch it.''
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    When we were there in late March, we heard reports that 100 Buddhist monks were rounded up in Rangoon and imprisoned for a conflict that they had with some Muslims, and I think it began because of—I believe it was a Buddhist girl that was allegedly assaulted by a Muslim. I might have it the other way around. But I think it was a Buddhist girl assaulted by a Muslim, and this caused some rioting, and they stoned a Muslim temple.
    I was told by the Karen the reason SLORC moved in and arrested the Buddhist monks is because of the ASEAN vote that is coming up either in July or December to bring Burma in. They want to look to the several members of ASEAN, and in particular Malaysia and Indonesia that has the largest Muslim population in the world, that, yes, we are not oppressing Muslims and we are, in fact, protecting them; see what we did by rounding up 100 Buddhist monks that were stoning their temple?
    I don't know how true that is, but I think the Karen have had pretty good information in the past, and that is probably accurate.
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. I could add one point to that, and that is that, you know, no self-respecting religious tradition, whether it is Buddhist, Christian, or Muslim, is going to do what SLORC is doing. So by its very actions, it is a kind of falsification of whatever religious base it says it attests to.
    And I think that that needs to be held up to the light, because in many cases around the world we have the manipulation of religious points of view for the sake of political purposes, and we see it in Rwanda, we see it in Bosnia, in Northern Ireland, and many other places, and to evade that trap, it is important to look at what is underneath.
    And one of the things that is underneath this, I think, is that the values for particularly the Baptist Christian tradition conveyed to the Karen were things like education and respect for democracy and an ability to speak up in a political process. And this is the great threat to SLORC. And it is not the religion as much as it is what the religion carries, in a sense, and I think that needs to be kept in mind.
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    Mr. SMITH. I think that is an excellent point. Even in Serbia, Milosevic manipulated the perceived religious animosities and was able to exploit it through the use of the media and other ways. And as we all know, most of the members of the prodemocracy forces in Burma are Buddhists. And so this is another one of those manipulations that I think we need to be very much aware of.
    Mr. LANE. Mr. Chairman, the Karen also expressed to me that they are quite aware of this manipulation, and they feel that the DKBA is being used by SLORC to pit Buddhists against Christians. They believe that is the sole purpose they are being used.
    Mr. PYNE. Mr. Chairman, I was just handed a note. It says—our colleague says, ''SLORC is an equal opportunity oppressor.'' So no religion escapes. That is true, because actually the majority of the Karens are Buddhists whereas the leadership, the minority, is the Christian. So that is one reason why the SLORC is trying to manipulate religious issues. What they really expect to gain is by manipulating—trying to pit the leadership against the masses.
    Also, it is the same thing against the Buddhist clergy too. During the 1980's, unprecedentedly thousands of Buddhist monks were arrested, defrocked. Even the most learned monks were among those who were jailed and imprisoned because they believe the monks were threatening the SLORC's rule. So SLORC, I would say, is not just religion, but anything that they believe they can manipulate to preserve their rule, they will take advantage of that.
    Mr. SMITH. One final question before yielding to Mr. Hilliard. As I think you know, subsection B of the Cohen-Feinstein sanctions authorizes and requires the President to prohibit new U.S. investment in Burma if the President determines that the Government of Burma has physically harmed, rearrested for political acts, or exiled Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, or has committed large-scale repression of or violence against the democratic opposition.
    In your view, especially the second part of that prohibition or that language, has the Administration failed in not implementing the ban? Many of us called upon him to do so, but I would appreciate your take on that.
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    Mr. PYNE. Yes, Mr. President——
    Mr. SMITH. You believe he should impose the ban?
    Mr. PYNE. Yes, because even now there is a massive repression against the National League for Democracy in Burma. Every time there is a student demonstration that breaks out, all the National League for Democracy will be rounded up, put in jail, and blamed for the problem. When the monks come out on the streets, again it is the National League for Democracy, and in the latest problem with the Muslims they did arrest some of the National League for Democracy again.
    So they are making use of every occasion of social unrest to crack down on the National League for Democracy. A lot of elected members are in prison right now, and even some of them who are not in prison are being threatened and coerced into leaving the party.
    So this is what is happening day to day in Burma, and I believe that the conditions mentioned in that bill have already been met for sanctions. I think it should be imposed.
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. I would suggest that directly linking refugee protection with economic sort of rewards, in a way, should, in fact, be the policy and that sanctions, in fact, need to be put down against this, yes.
    Mr. SMITH. Should that linkage also be applied to Thailand in terms of the refugees?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. It is our feeling—the Thai Government, I think, has over the years taken on a great burden of refugee protection, and I would hate to see them, in a sense, penalized for it. But I think inasmuch as it is a regional issue, I think it needs to be applied in a regional sense. In other words, that—and the key to refugee protection, I think, is economic—that is really what we are picking up in the situation.
    Mr. SMITH. Thank you.
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    Mr. Lane.
    Mr. LANE. Mr. Chairman, the Karen told me that they were encouraged that former Congressman Bill Richardson is now U.S. representative to the United Nations, because I think he has met with Suu Kyi—what, twice? On two occasions? I know at least once. And they are encouraged that that is taking place, because they wonder why they haven't heard anything from him since he has assumed that position.
    In addition, they are a bit disappointed that President Clinton about a week and a half ago said now is not the time to impose sanctions, and that came about at the same time that the U.S. State Department was saying that human rights are getting worse inside of Burma or were worse in 1996, so they are wondering where the United States is on this issue.
    They were encouraged, however, that the President last December when he visited Thailand was very vocal and critical of the Burmese Government and its involvement in the illegal drug trade.
    Mr. SMITH. Mr. Hilliard.
    Mr. HILLIARD. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
    Let me make sure that I understand. In your answers to some of the questions of the chairman, you mentioned that Unocal and the Smithsonian had projects there and that refugees who were not killed in instances were perhaps forced to work on those projects. When you use the word ''forced,'' do you mean as laborers without pay? Or would you explain that.
    Mr. DUN. Forced means not only without pay, these people have to grow rice. And they have to make a living out of growing rice is a reasonable thing. You have to do a certain thing within a certain period of time.
    Mr. HILLIARD. We are talking about the refugees; right?
    Mr. DUN. We are talking about the people who have been people inside and become refugees. Forced labor means working without pay and also being taken away from your livelihood, from your fields.
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    Mr. HILLIARD. All right.
    Now, what I am trying to ascertain is whether or not the Smithsonian and Unocal and whatever type companies pay but just do not pay the refugees but pay someone else.
    Mr. DUN. We have not seen any money come down to the people who have been——
    Mr. HILLIARD. Working on the project?
    Mr. DUN. Yes.
    Mr. HILLIARD. Let me ask you this. Other than Unocal and the Smithsonian, are there any other companies or interests that you know of that participate in this manner with forced laborers?
    Mr. DUN. Could you repeat that question, please?
    Mr. HILLIARD. Are there any other companies other than those two that we named that allow these people to be forced to work without being paid?
    Mr. DUN. These are the two most high profile companies. There may be other companies, but we are not sure about that.
    Mr. HILLIARD. All right. I would like to know if there are American companies or any company that does business here in America that participate. We need to know that. I think it is very important. And I think that the only way we are going to really have an impact, we have got to start attacking those companies that do business here for the atrocities that they commit elsewhere.
    If we do not do that, if we do not bring it to the attention of the press here, then there is very little that is going to be done. And if you could get me a list of those and if there is any documentation that you have, I really would like to know that.
    Let me make sure I understand that we are talking about the complicity or the knowledge that all these things are taking place with the knowledge, if not the complicity, of Burma and Thailand. In other words, I am asking, are these governments actively participating in forcing these refugees to work without pay? And if they are not participating, do they have knowledge of it?
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    Mr. PYNE. It is, sir, not refugees that are being forced to work; it is the people inside, the villagers. Then they become the refugees.
    Mr. HILLIARD. Let's separate it. You have two problems. When you speak of forced labor, you were speaking of those citizens who were forced to work without pay.
    Mr. PYNE. Right. They are also asked to bring their own food to the work site.
    Mr. HILLIARD. OK. All right. The refugees——
    Mr. PYNE. Are the people who have fled across the border.
    Mr. HILLIARD. Right. But they are not the ones who are being forced to work?
    Mr. PYNE. Not that I know of, no.
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. Only in the case of, they went back and they got themselves involved. I mean, they were taken up and put into the conditions of forced labor.
    But I think the point is that, for example, the pipeline, there was forced relocation of so many people that many of them fled as refugees even to get away from the conditions of forced work inside Burma.
    Mr. HILLIARD. That forced relocation, was it because of the construction of the pipeline?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. Yes, I think that is true.
    Mr. HILLIARD. Or were they leaving because they did not want to be forced to work without pay or a combination?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. I think the creation of the pipeline required the forcing of relocation of villages and large-scale relocations. Some of this coincided, of course, with the political problem of getting rid of people along the border that they wanted to kind of relocate in any case. So it served a lot of purposes for the Burmese Government.
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    Mr. DUN. The people are relocated because SLORC or the companies need the security along the pipeline. And they are afraid that if there are any villages near that pipeline, the forces that are against the government might sabotage the pipeline. So what they are doing right now is just creating a wide area, clear of anybody in the area, that the pipeline is going to be going through.
    Mr. HILLIARD. I understand. Thank you very much.
    Let me ask, Father, you made some recommendations at the very end of your report. Are there additional recommendations that you have that you feel would help us in trying to alleviate the problem of the refugees?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. I think the key question here is trying to get information and access, you know, to find out actually what is going on. And I think the more structured and formal there is of a monitoring system, whether it is put in place by the United Nations or put in place through the NGO community, but some kind of an official ability to access these areas would be very important.
    Mr. HILLIARD. All right. Now, has this request been made of the Burma Government?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. No, not that I know of.
    Mr. HILLIARD. Do you feel it would be honored if requested?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. No, actually. But I think of the Thai Government, that we certainly could ask for more access to the border areas that would allow for some of this information base to come out. Normally the United Nations does this, the UNHCR, but Thailand does not allow the UNHCR to have a permanent base on the border, so the United Nations cannot do the function that it normally does. Therefore, our alternative suggestion would be, let the nongovernmental community do that function, you know.
    Mr. HILLIARD. Do you think there might be a certain type of person that might be inclined to see this happen and take a position?
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    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. Yes. I think, economically, their own desire to have things settled down and create the right economic climate is enough motivation for the Thai to see some kind of responsible, international approval of the thing.
    Mr. HILLIARD. And, finally, is this problem increasing or do we look for the refugee problem to increase in terms of the population or is this something that has about peaked out?
    Mr. DUN. I believe it is increasing. Because, like I said in my testimony, just last Saturday and Sunday there were another 400 people who tried to cross over. So it is increasing every day, every week.
    Mr. LANE. Congressman, when I was there, I was told by the people in the camps, the leadership that keep track of the camps, they are getting between 100 and 300 refugees crossing the border each day.
    Mr. HILLIARD. I did say, finally, which indicated I didn't have another question, but I really do, and it is the second part of a question that I asked there. The Smithsonian project, is it displacing some of these people? Is it causing part of the refugee problem?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. I don't pretend to be an expert on what the Smithsonian project is all about. I will say, however, it wouldn't be an uncommon situation, where you have a high-profile environmental protection scheme of some kind going on in an area in which there are human rights and refugee problems and the clash between the two interests of protection of environment or whatever, the natural resources or whatever the project is and the kind of human rights and human suffering not being reconciled, would not be an uncommon situation.
    In fact, I was even told by some of the field workers that the Thai Government has said one of the reasons it can't find more secure sites for the refugees is that it would intrude on the environmentally protected forestland—it can't find sites for the camps because that is under sort of an interenvironmental watch, in a sense.
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    Mr. DUN. I don't have very accurate information about the Smithsonian project, but I believe it is something environmentally concerned. But, for me, I think that people are much more important than the environment.
    Mr. HILLIARD. I would think so, also; and that is one of the reasons why I asked the question. I wanted to know whether this project, in and of itself, which is set up to protect the environment, was against the interest of people that live in the area and whether they were being displaced to create some environmental place.
    Mr. DUN. Well, all I have here from my friend is the Smithsonian project has been reported in the recent article of the London Observer.
    Mr. HILLIARD. Thank you very much.
    Mr. SMITH. Thank you very much for your questions, and we will pursue that ourselves. I think the Subcommittee needs to get much more information on that and to ask those interested parties, including the Smithsonian, to give an account.
    Let me ask a couple final questions, and then we will conclude the hearing.
    If the green light were given for unfettered access to the refugees, are there enough humanitarian supplies, food, medicines and the like available that could be immediately put into the hands of the people who need it most? Do you have anything to say about that?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. I can certainly speak for the sort of broader community, that we can mobilize rather quickly the necessary humanitarian goods to get in there, if we are allowed to get them there. That is always the question.
    Mr. SMITH. Before the others answer, what is the percentage of people we do not have access to at this point?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. Well, I think it is a question of sort of partial access in the things. In other words, we can have presence there right now in some of the camps my field workers visit; but they are not allowed to bring in water and medical supplies and this and that. So, in some ways, we have access without authority to bring in the humanitarian supplies. So I would say all the camps are suffering under a kind of limit to what it actually is we are actually able to bring in, restrictions, you know.
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    Mr. SMITH. Father Ryscavage, you indicated in your testimony—I sensed a concern that if the UNHCR came in, there might be the concern this was a precursor of a repatriation. As we all know, and I have from this podium and on the floor and elsewhere, including in-country, criticized the UNHCR for a greater emphasis on repatriation rather than protection. Do you have fears and do the rest of our witnesses have fears that if they are invited in by the Thai that this could be a way of trying to put the imprimatur or the stamp of approval on a repatriation effort and then we would get those massive assurances that there is no problem, there are monitors back home, like we heard from Vietnam, to ensure these people are not then part of a forced work situation for the pipeline or some other thing?
    Rev. RYSCAVAGE. I certainly would be very concerned about it. But at least, if the UNHCR were there, we could have direct—the NGO committee, at least, could hold the UNHCR accountable for some of its actions. Right now, it is impossible to hold Geneva accountable when it is not allowed a presence in the situation, but I am aware that in Geneva right now the big mantra is repatriation under almost any situation, ''voluntary'' repatriation.
    Mr. SMITH. That is a very flexible term, ''voluntary repatriation''. It is very elastic. My Chief of Staff, Joseph Rees, says the record should reflect, and I agree, that when you said voluntary, you put quotes around it.
    Mr. Pyne.
    Mr. PYNE. I agree with that, and I really have no other comments.
    Mr. SMITH. Let me just ask one final question, and then I will go to my friend and colleague.
    Have we protested or taken a strong enough action with regard to SLORC and its hope to become part of the ASEAN, to let those countries that make up that body, that it is not in their interest at this particular time, because of this repressive government and because of what they are doing now to tens of thousands—114,000 in at least one estimation—of refugees?
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    Mr. PYNE. We have been informed by the State Department officers that, yes, they have been approaching ASEAN officers, ASEAN leaders; and, yes, they know about what SLORC is doing; and that behind the scenes, that they would be working to make SLORC a little bit more flexible. But we really haven't seen any—because this was told to us some months ago, and we haven't really seen any change in SLORC's attitude.
    In fact, when SLORC was admitted as an observer in ASEAN, the next thing it did is it announced that it no longer needed to enter into any dialog with the democratic opposition because it believed that it is going to gain the legitimacy it needs from ASEAN. So it is dangerous.
    Mr. SMITH. We have no further questions.
    Let me just say, we are very grateful for the expert testimony our four witnesses provided to us this afternoon. This is not the last you will hear of this. As a matter of fact, my hope is that the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and others will take a very proactive and aggressive stance on this.
    I know that Mr. Hilliard and I were just talking about the need for Congress to up the ante, vis-a-vis Thailand, and of course, SLORC, to let them know that this very reprehensible and preventable situation regarding the refugees has to be alleviated or else people will die.
    We have early warning on this. The rains and the disease will take their toll, as they are doing now. As was pointed out in testimony, the rains have begun. It is not even in the offing. It is happening right now.
    So I think we need to become more aggressive, and I can assure you we will. Your testimony has aided this Subcommittee tremendously in that effort, so I thank you for your fine testimony and your ongoing, great humanitarian work. It is very much appreciated and valued.
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    Mr. Lane.
    Mr. LANE. Mr. Chairman, I was given a report from the Karen and one from the Karenni that I would like to enter into the record.
    Mr. SMITH. Without objection, they will be made a part of the record.
    [The information referred to appears in the appendix.]
    Mr. SMITH. The Subcommittee hearing is adjourned. Thank you.
    [Whereupon, at 2:33 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]


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