An­other round of refugees to be repa­tri­ated

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

As their re­cently re­turned com­pa­tri­ates are rue­ing their home­com­ing, a sec­ond round of refugees from Thai­land’s Nu Po camp are ex­pected to re­turn to Myan­mar next year.

NEARLY 100 refugees from the Nu Po camp in Thai­land’s Tak prov­ince are ex­pected re­turn to Myan­mar next year, form­ing the sec­ond batch un­der the two gov­ern­ments’ repa­tri­a­tion scheme.

According to the Min­istry of So­cial Wel­fare, Re­lief and Re­set­tle­ment, the re­turnees can move into low-cost hous­ing at Shwe Linn Ban in­dus­trial zone in Hlaing Thar­yar town­ship and pay for the ac­com­mo­da­tion at an un­spec­i­fied date later on. The govern­ment told the ini­tial group of re­turnees in­ter­ested in govern­ment-pro­vided hous­ing that they would need to pay K9.8 mil­lion (US$7540) for each unit on an eightyear in­stal­ment plan, but has since soft­ened on a timetable for re­pay­ment.

U Ko Ko Naing, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the min­istry’s res­cue depart­ment, said that refugees in the first batch of re­turnees had so far de­clined the of­fer, pos­ing a chal­lenge for the govern­ment.

“The govern­ment can­not give the hous­ing with­out fees. We can­not do more than that for the refugees. The min­istry also is pro­vid­ing the refugees with K3000 per day,” he said.

He added that the min­istry is hop­ing to be bet­ter pre­pared for the sec­ond batch of repa­tri­ates, and hopes the group will not face some of the con­cerns that the ini­tial re­turnees have ex­pressed.

Daw Khin San Yi, 59, a for­mer po­lit­i­cal pris­oner and re­turnee from Nu Po, said yes­ter­day that the govern­ment didn’t prop­erly ex­plain the re­pay­ment scheme or time frame on the low-cost hous­ing.

“We have sent a let­ter to the pres­i­dent and state coun­sel­lor about our prob­lems. But they haven’t re­sponded yet,” she said.

U Saw Gaw, camp com­mit­tee chair at Nu Po, told The Myan­mar Times yes­ter­day that the com­mit­tee was work­ing in con­junc­tion with the UNHCR and de­cided to send back the refugees at the end of the cur­rent aca­demic year.

“Fif­teen fam­ily units signed up to re­turn. But some stu­dents are in­cluded in the list,” he said.

More than 60 refugees in Thai­land crossed the bor­der back into Myan­mar last month, with most trav­el­ling on­ward to their homes in var­i­ous states and re­gions. But 17 refugees who ar­rived in Yan­gon on Oc­to­ber 27 had nowhere to live. They are now be­ing housed at a Min­istry of So­cial Wel­fare, Re­lief and Re­set­tle­ment shel­ter in Mayan­gone town­ship.

The UNHCR has urged the Myan­mar govern­ment to take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for pro­tect­ing the rights of re­turn­ing cit­i­zens and help them re­build their lives in-coun­try.

“Where we have access, par­tic­u­larly in ru­ral ar­eas, UNHCR will con­tinue to ad­vo­cate and pro­vide sup­port to th­ese ar­eas, and sup­port lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in co­or­di­na­tion with the govern­ment, non-state ac­tors, hu­man­i­tar­ian and de­vel­op­ment part­ners,” said An­drew Dusek, as­so­ciate com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer at the UNHCR.

As part of the repa­tri­a­tion plan, refugees re­ceived 8300 baht ($234) per adult and 6500 baht per child from the Thai govern­ment. Each fam­ily also re­ceived K300,000 from the Myan­mar govern­ment ahead of their re­turn.

According to the Karen Hu­man Rights Group, the nine refugee camps on the bor­der in Thai­land house ap­prox­i­mately 120,000 Myan­mar na­tion­als.

Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing

Myan­mar refugees from Thai­land sit out­side a tem­po­rary shel­ter in Yan­gon on Novem­ber 1.

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