Thursday, February 23, 2006

Thai Refugees Not Willing To Return Home.

Most of the 130 Thai Muslims who fled to Malaysia from a southern province last year were not willing to return home for the time being despite an assurance by the government to guarantee their safety. Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon said the Thai government respected their decision and would not force them to return.

In August 2005, they crossed the border into Kelantan and claimed their lives were in danger following the escalation of violence in the three southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala.

More than 1,000 people were killed since the outbreak of violence in January 2004 in the Muslim-majority south.

The refugee incident caused a diplomatic row between Malaysia and Thailand. One of the refugees, who were believed to be involved in the ongoing unrest, was handed over to the Thai authorities by Malaysia in December.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees interviewed the refugees, who are currently being held in an immigration detention camp in Terengganu, but the UN body later left the matter to be resolved by both countries through negotiation. Malaysia also allowed Thai officials to interview the refugees and persuade them to return.

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