Luther Htoo, a former leader of the Karen rebel God's Army, yesterday claimed 55 males belonging to his group were captured by the Thai military 13 years ago and have not been seen since.
Former God’s Army leader Luther Htoo asks the Lawyers Council of Thailand yesterday to help determine the fate of 55 group members who went missing in 2000. APICHART JINAKUL
"Their children, their wives, their families have been waiting for them since they went missing," Luther Htoo said after seeking help from the Lawyers Council of Thailand (LCT) to find the missing Karen.
"I'm afraid they might not be alive anymore," he said.
His brother-in-law is among the 55 missing people.
Luther Htoo and his twin brother Johnny led God's Army before their ethnic rebel group was defeated by Myanmar government troops in 2000.
He stayed in refugee camps in Ratchaburi and Kanchanaburi afterward. His twin brother turned himself over to the Myanmar government, and his fate is unknown.
Luther Htoo has been granted asylum in Sweden. He recently came to Thailand to visit his people in refugee camps, where they asked him to help find their missing relatives.
This prompted him to contact the Karen Network for Culture and Environment to coordinate with relevant organisations for help.
Luther Htoo yesterday lodged a petition with the LCT and the National Human Rights Commission and will leave Thailand tomorrow.
Speaking through an interpreter, he said the 55 people had been missing since God's Army clashed with Thai and Myanmar government troops in 2000.
His forces, which were guarding more than 500 ethnic Karen, set up a camp on Hill 1030 on the Myanmar border west of Kanchanaburi.
He claimed the Thai military, in league with Myanmar troops, went to Hill 1030 to negotiate with him and his followers and demand the group's surrender.
The approach was rejected and the government troops attacked the hill for three days.
The fierce battle forced some of his people to flee to the Thai border at Baan Huai Sud in Ratchaburi.
They were then captured, allegedly by Thai soldiers who told the Karen that they needed strong men to help with some work, Luther Htoo said.
Fifty five male refugees were forced to get on a military truck and have not been seen since, Luther Htoo said.
He told the Lawyers Council of Thailand that ethnic people were too afraid to ask for help to investigate the incident or to send petitions to any relevant organisations.
"We are just Karen refugees in Thailand. We can't speak much," he said.
LCT representative Sunthorn Phayak yesterday accepted the petition and said his organisation would collect evidence and witnesses and then send the case to the LCT board.
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- Writer: Paritta Wangkiat