UNHCR devises plan to assist refugees wanting to go back to Myanmar

UNHCR has devised a plan to send refugees from camps in Thailand back to their homes in Myanmar on a voluntary basis while some refugee representatives said that they were not involved in the plan.

According to BBC Thai Service, Iain Hall, a senior field coordinator of the United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) based in Mae Sot town in the northwestern border province of Tak, proposed a plan to repatriate refugees from Myanmar at a meeting with about 70 representatives of refugees from Myanmar with civil society organisations also present.

Hall pointed out the plan, called ‘Operations Plan for Voluntary Repatriation’ is still in a preliminary stage and will be completed in about six months’ time. He added that repatriation depends on the willingness of the refugees and the political situation in Myanmar.

In detail, the plan will lay out procedures to give special assistance to refugee children, the elderly and the disabled on their journey back to their country of origin.

Despite the fact that the plan will operate on a voluntary basis, many representatives of refugees from Myanmar in major refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border pointed out that that procedures might happen too quickly and that they were not involved in the process. 

Blooming Night Zan, joint general-secretary of the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC), an ethnic minority in Thailand and Myanmar, said that she disagreed with the plan because KRC representatives were not involved in the decision-making process.

Luis Kaypoe, first secretary of the Karenni Refugee Committee (KNRC), which is taking care of two Karenni refugee camps in Mae Hong Son province, said that he agrees with the proposal, but the plan might happen too quickly.

He added that the plan was probably drafted in parallel with the Thai and Myanmar government’s plans to give a green light to the repatriation process of refugees from Myanmar, which would proceed after the upcoming national election in Myanmar on 8 November 2015.

Bweh Say, first secretary of the KRC, pointed out that the repatriation process should only happen when a ceasefire agreement is concluded between the Myanmar army and Karen militants, which will ensure peace and safety for the Karen population,.

There are approximately 110,000 refugees from Myanmar who have settled in nine major refugee camps along the border provinces of Thailand most of whom are members of ethnic minorities. Some of the refugee camps have been in operation for over 30 years.