A long-awaited home­com­ing

More than 70 refugees, some of whom had lived in Thai bor­der camps for more than 30 years, re­turned to Myan­mar this week in the first or­gan­ised repa­tri­a­tion in­volv­ing the two coun­tries’ gov­ern­ments.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - Yeemon­tun@mm­times.com YE MON

THE celebrated repa­tri­a­tion of dozens of refugees to Myan­mar was not with­out a hic­cup this week as 25 of the 96 in­di­vid­u­als in Thai­land who were ex­pected to re­turn backed out last minute, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of So­cial Wel­fare, Re­lief and Re­set­tle­ment.

Six Myan­mar na­tion­als from the Tham Hin refugee camp in Thai­land’s Ratch­aburi prov­ince re­turned through the Htee Khee bor­der gate in Tanintharyi Re­gion on Oc­to­ber 25, and 65 refugees of the Nu Po camp in Tak prov­ince re­turned through the Myawady bor­der gate yes­ter­day.

U Win Htut Oo, deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Min­istry of So­cial Wel­fare, Re­lief and Re­set­tle­ment, con­firmed that the Thai gov­ern­ment had trans­ferred only 65 refugees yes­ter­day, with the oth­ers hav­ing changed their minds about re­turn­ing to Myan­mar at this time.

“I don’t know why they don’t want to come back to Myan­mar,” he told The Myan­mar Times.

Ini­tially, the Min­istry of So­cial Wel­fare, Re­lief and Re­set­tle­ment an­nounced that the Myan­mar and Thai gov­ern­ments had agreed to send back 96 refugees and had pre­pared ac­com­mo­da­tion and other pro­vi­sions for the re­turnees.

Yes­ter­day the min­istry’s di­rec­tor gen­eral U Ko Ko Naing said the gov­ern­ment had ar­ranged to give K300,000 (US$243) to each re­turn­ing fam­ily and other sup­port in the form of food sup­plies.

The gov­ern­ment has also worked with the Depart­ment of Progress of the Bor­der Ar­eas and Na­tional Races De­vel­op­ment (Na Ta La) in Myawady township, which has ar­ranged hous­ing for some of the re­turnees.

Thai­land’s for­eign min­istry re­leased a state­ment yes­ter­day say­ing the re­turnees had been liv­ing in Thai­land since 1984. The min­istry pledged to co­op­er­ate with the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment via the Joint Work­ing Group (JWG) on the Re­turn of the Dis­placed Per­sons from Myan­mar, which is chaired by the per­ma­nent sec­re­taries of both coun­tries’ for­eign af­fairs min­istries, to re­turn more refugees in the com­ing years.

“Pos­i­tive po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and the peace process in Myan­mar in re­cent years played a sig­nif­i­cant role in en­cour­ag­ing the dis­placed per­sons to vol­un­tar­ily re­turn to their home­land. Thai­land and Myan­mar thus have been work­ing closely since to make the re­turn suc­cess­ful,” said the state­ment.

The Myan­mar Times phoned the Myan­mar Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs’ five des­ig­nated spokesper­sons but was un­able to get com­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the Karen Refugee Com­mit­tee, there are 120,000 Myan­mar refugees liv­ing in nine camps along the Thai bor­der. The Thai for­eign min­istry put the num­ber at 103,000.

Al­though the refugees’ repa­tri­a­tion this week was vol­un­tary, some groups ad­vo­cat­ing on be­half of the Karen – the largest eth­nic group liv­ing in the camps – have ob­jected to their re­turn, con­cerned that the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment is not ready to help them with liveli­hood and food sup­port.

Naw Eh Thaw, co­or­di­na­tor for the Karen Hu­man Rights Group, said the gov­ern­ment should first work to con­sol­i­date the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment be­fore work­ing to re­turn refugees.

“The refugees shouldn’t come back in this sit­u­a­tion be­cause fight­ing is hap­pen­ing some­times and the gov­ern­ment has not yet fin­ished clear­ing land­mines,” she told The Myan­mar Times.

As re­cently as last month, the Tat­madaw and a Karen splin­ter group clashed sev­eral times in Kayin State’s Hlaingbwe township, which bor­ders Thai­land’s Tak prov­ince.

Photo: Bren­nan O’Con­nor

A bus trans­port­ing re­turn­ing refugees ar­rives yes­ter­day at the Friend­ship Bridge in Mae Sot, Thai­land, en route to Myawady, Kayin State.

Photo: Bren­nan O’Con­nor

A Thai army sol­dier di­rects re­turnees from the Nu Po refugee camp onto a bus in Mae Sot yes­ter­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.