03 Oct Conditions 'not right' to send home refugees

Written by Bangkok Post Published in Refugees Read 8839 times
A view of part of Mae La Oon Refugee Camp. Photo: UNHCR/J.Redfern A view of part of Mae La Oon Refugee Camp. Photo: UNHCR/J.Redfern

Hundreds of thousands of refugees along the Thai-Myanmar border face the prospect of spending more time in camps because conditions are not yet conducive for their organised return.

The assessment was made by Thai and Myanmar governments and agencies involved in helping the Myanmar refugees at the border, said The Border Consortium (TBC) which released its six-monthly report on the Myanmar refugee situation yesterday.

TBC is a Bangkok-based humanitarian organisation which has provided assistance to Myanmar refugees along the Thai-Myanmar border since 1984.

About 129,000 Myanmar refugees live in several camps along Thailand's western border.

It is estimated about 400,000 other Myanmar citizens have also been displaced in Southeast Myanmar from internal conflicts.

About 2.5 million Myanmar migrants are also working in Thailand with and without documentation.

TBC said displaced Myanmar nationals will be taken into account for organised repatriation when the refugee camps along the border are eventually closed.

"The TBC, the refugee community, the government, the government of Myanmar and the UNHCR all agree that conditions do not yet exist for an organised return," TBC executive director Sally Thompson said.

The organisation helps prepare refugees for their eventual return.  Its programmes focus on providing training in occupational skills, employment experiences and community governance.

"This period of transition and cautious optimism regarding the prospect of return represents an opportunity to continue building on the work that we have done to ensure that refugees not only get the opportunity to return, but that they have an opportunity to contribute to Myanmar's future," Ms Thompson said.

"Investing in conflict-affected peoples, investing in community development, and investing in preparation for return on both sides of the border is central to making sure that 'return' isn't just a logistical exercise of sending people back, but is also a process of ensuring that reintegration is sustainable," she added.

This article first appeared in the Bangkok Post on October 3, 2013.