Burmese refugees in Thailand: Welcome withdrawn | The Economist

Oct 15th 2010, 11:20 by B.B. | MAE SOT

THAILAND’S foreign minister announced at the end of last month that his government plans to repatriate an untold number of Burmese refugees. Sometime after Myanmar holds its November elections, the first in two decades, the Thais plan to expel its citizens who have made their home in Thailand.

Kasit Piromya made the remarks during a speech to the Asia Society (full video) in New York on September 28th. “I am going back to Bangkok and one of the first things I will be doing is to launch a more comprehensive program for the Myanmar people in the camps, the displaced persons, the intellectuals that run around the streets of Bangkok and Chang Mai province, to prepare them to return to Myanmar after the elections.”

Thailand’s foreign ministry has since said Mr Kasit’s remarks have been misinterpreted. They say that Burmese asylum seekers will not be returned until “the situation in their country becomes conducive”, whenever that may be. The proviso has not done much to reassure Burmese refugees however. Thai authorities have shown an inclination in recent years to carry out deportations even in the face of strong opposition from rights groups and foreign powers.