Refugees ask governments not to forcibly repatriate them


View of the Mae La refugee camp near the Thai-Burma border in Tak province, north-western of Thailand. Photo: Narong Sangnak/EPA

Refugees at Mae La, the largest Myanmar refugee camp in Thailand, have urged the Thai and Myanmar governments not to forcibly send refugees on the Thai side of the Thai-Myanmar border to Myanmar.

At a ceremony to mark World Refugee Day held at Mae La Refugee Camp on 20 June the camp’s chairman, Saw Honest, told KIC News that he does not want the Thai government to make any decisions about forcibly returning refugees to Myanmar and that they want the Thai Government to follow the previous agreement on refugees.

He said: “We don’t want the Thai government to forcibly send us, the refugees, back. We are making this request to both the Thai and Myanmar governments. We want to live like normal human beings without any wars and human rights violations, as we [previously] decided. We need peace and unity.”

Over 4,000 people, including representatives from: the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Thai authorities, civil society organisations, officials from the refugee camp, students, and refugees attended the World Refugee Day ceremony at Mae La camp.

In an interview with KIC News, Teacher Saw Bae said: “I’m attending today’s ceremony because I want to know clearly about the rumours on the plan to send us back, but according to UNHCR, there is no definite plan to send us back yet. They also encouraged us to make ourselves ready.”

He added that though many people say that there have been a lot of changes in Myanmar it would not be safe for refugees if they return home now. Also students from the refugee camps have not yet received any recognition from the Myanmar Government for the education they received while in the camps (which they should receive before going to Myanmar).

World Refugee Day was also marked with ceremonies in other camps on the Thai side of the Thai-Myanmar border. These were: Mae Ra, Mae La Oon, Umpiem, Nu Po, ThamHin and Karenni refugee camps No 1 and 2.

Over 120,000 Myanmar refugees live in nine refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, according to groups that provide refugee assistance.

UN Resolution 55/76 states that the UN will celebrate World Refugee Day every year on 20 June. The first time it was celebrated was in 2001 to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refuge.

The motto for this year’s World Refugee Day was: ‘We Stand together with Refugees.’

Courtesy BNI

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