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Refugees to Return to Burma?

By Azan

Monday, March 12, 2012 

The Thai border authorities in Sangkhlaburi, Kanchanchanaburi province have conducted a census of the Burmese refugees who are staying in Ban Don Yang Camp. According to refugee sources, the inquiry was about potential going back to Burma in the first week of April.

Burmese refugees in Ban Don Yang Camp. (Photo: Lawi Weng)

Nai Lawi, who is of the Mon ethnic group, was 1 of 100 refugees who participated in interviews. He said, “They asked me whether I wanted to go back to Burma as the country’s political situation improved. I told them I would not go back as I have already decided to settle third countries, then we come to stay at camp.”

The authorities interviewed four refugees at a time, which individually and asked whether they would want to go back Burma if the Thai government were to send them back.

Refugees were interviewed by authorities in groups of four and each were asked to respond as to whether they would want to return to Burma if the Thai government were to send them back.

Among 100 refugees that were interviewed by the Thai authorities, different points of view were shared. Some said they would go back to Burma while others said that they would not go back. Of those who do not intend to go back, they cited mistrust in the current political landscape, despite some improvements.

Mi Chit, another Mon refugee at the camp said, “I will not go back to Burma because we have already decided to move to another country.”

This is the first time the Thai authorities have conducted interviews to refugees in Ban Don Yang Camp, about their potential return into Burma. Authorities have yet to conduct the same census in other refugee camps.

Sin Thee Yar, who is a Karen refugee and teaches English to other refugees in Umpiem Camp said, “We heard that they are also going to do census in here as well. But, we do not know when.”

There are 140,000 Burmese refugees based along the Thai-Burma border in refugee camps. They stay under the protection of the Thai authorities and the United Nations Refugee Commission (UNHCR).

Some refugees believe that if the Thai authorities are going to send Burmese refugees back into Burma, then the UNHCR and Thai authorities must work together to do census from the people.

“I think they [Thai authorities] just want to know the percentage of people that want to go home, so they censused the people. It is not yet time for them to send us back. If they do, they [Thai authorities] have to work with the UNHCR,” said Nai Lawi.


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