A leading rights group urged Thai security forces on Saturday to stop returning refugees to neighbouring Burma.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said ethnic Karen groups faced persecution by the Burma military if forced to leave a Thai refugee camp near the border.
‘Forcing civilians back into an active war zone may be an easy answer for Thailand, but it’s brutal -a completely inhumane and unacceptable solution,’ said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
‘The Thai government should cooperate with international relief agencies and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure that it upholds the rights of civilians under international law,’ he added.
HRW said some 35 refugees, part of a larger group of 280 who fled a military offensive in eastern Burma in early 2008, were sent back across the border on Thursday.
It accuses Burma soldiers of forcing Karen civilians to leave their homes, burning their villages and food stocks to clear them out of the area.
Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and other nations to pressure the Thai government to provide sanctuary to those fleeing Burma.
Almost 140,000 Karen refugees have been living in Thai refugee camps for up to 20 years.
The minority ethnic group fled their country in 1995 following a major offensive by the Burma government army against the Karen National Union.