Ethnic organisations appeal for border aid

Jun 3, 2008 (DVB), Shan, Karen and Karenni groups have appealed to the international community to urgently grant much-needed funding for food provision to over 140,000 refugees living along the Burma-Thailand border.

The organisations said that the refugees, who have been living on the border for up to 20 years, would face difficulties due to cuts in assistance from the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, due to take effect in August.

The annual budget for food provision in camps along the border has been cut to US$ 6.8 million because of the decrease in the value of the US dollar, and the hike in world food prices will exacerbate the shortfall.

The groups said the TBBC funding crisis has sparked new fears and uncertainty among the refugees.

"Refugees are not allowed to go in and out of the camps freely to work outside so they are reliant on food assistance to survive, such as the rice, cooking oil, salt and chili given by TBBC," said Aung Nge, a spokesperson from a Karenni refugee camp.

"It will be very concerning for our refugees if the existing donors stop or reduce their funding to TBBC."

The TBBC has previously received financial assistance from the Netherlands, Ireland, Poland, the USA, the UK, Canada and Spain.

According to the consortium, so far this year it has received funding from the Netherlands, Ireland and Poland.

Aung Nge told DVB that refugees would continue to need outside support as it is impossible for them to return home while the civil war continues and the military regime remains in power.

"It would be best if we could go back to our homes and carry on with our lives as we are not officially recognised as refugees by the Thai government , we are only considered to be temporarily displaced persons," he said.

"Unfortunately, we can't go home because our lives are not secure under military rule."

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

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