Karen Community Based Organizations issued a position paper on the repatriation of refugees along the Thai-Burma border back to Burma saying it is critical that they are included in the process.
The KCBO in a statement paper said that all pre-conditions should be met and procedures need to be in place before refugees are returned otherwise it will be against the will of the refugees or disrespectful to their rights.
The KCBO in a statement paper have requested that before the return of refugees can happen, there needs to be a nationwide ceasefire agreed to by the government and the ethnic armed groups, a de-mining program started, the guaranteed security of all refugees and that all human right violations, including the confiscation of villagers lands must stop.
Naw Dah Eh Kler, spokesperson for KCBO and the general secretary of the Karen Women Organization, spoke toKaren News about the groups concerns of the repeated media and community talk about repatriation.
“We’ve been hearing rumors refugees would be sent back but when we make inquiries, no one seems to know for sure. We want to say that whenever this does happen we, the KCBOs, must be recognized as a stakeholder and be allowed to take part in the process.”
Naw Dah Eh Kler said that the KCBOs is composed of those groups that are working with refugee and migrant communities based along the Thai-Burma border and without their participation, refugee repatriation should not be carried out.
The KCBOs, acknowledge that despite the Burma government wanting to have all refugees in camps along Thai-Burma border returned, it is the responsibility of the Thai government and the United Nation High Commission for Refugees to carry out the process.
The Karen Community Based Organizations (KCBOs) is an alliance of Karen groups working on education, health, relief assistance, environment, community development and human rights. These groups have been working in response to humanitarian crises in Karen areas and along the Thai‐Burma border and deliver assistance
Thailand may repatriate thousands of Burmese refugees within the next year, according to the country’s National Security Council (NSC), which released a statement on Thursday following a recent visit to Burma where its delegates met with President Office’s Minister Aung Min.
More than 140,000 Burmese refugees currently reside in nine camps situated along the Thai-Burma border. Most are ethnic Karen who have fled from their villages over the past 25 years to escape the ongoing conflict in the region.
The Thai statement comes at a time when Burma is undergoing a period of political and economic reform, and several ceasefire agreements have been made between Naypyidaw and armed ethnic groups in eastern and northern Burma.
NSC secretary-general Wichean Potephosree, who was involved in the talks with Aung Min in the Burmese capital, said in the statement that Burma “is clearing landmines along the border, preparing to build shelters and other infrastructure … to be ready within one year.”
In an recent interview with The Irrawaddy, Aung Min said the government will provide food and shelter to the returnees for one year and provide them with job opportunities.
“For those who want to work as farmers, we will provide equipment,” he said.
He also said that the Burmese government will construct industrial zones on its territory close to the Thai border towns of Mae Sot, Mae Sai and Three Pagoda Pass, which will create job opportunities in the area for those who want to work in factories.
Wichean confirmed that Burma wants Thais to invest in building industrial estates on its soil in order to employ the potential returnees.
However, Saw Robert Htwe, the chairman of Karen Refugees Committee (KRC), told The Irrawaddy on Friday that it is impossible to repatriate more than 100,000 people within a year. Neither villages nor shelters nor food and security have been prepared for the returning refugees, he said. Additional facilities such as healthcare and education must also be considered, he added.
Suitable sites must be identified and a de-mining project must be carried out before refugees can be repatriated, he said. Such a large-scale de-mining program will take at least one or two years, the KRC chairman said.
Meanwhile, Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), a humanitarian aid agency that has been assisting Burmese refugees on the Thai border for more than 20 years, said that Burmese political reforms have increased the likelihood of the refugees returning.
The agency make the comment after its leaders visited Burma in early September where they also met with representatives of various civil society groups.
Duncan McArthur, the group’s emergency response director, said that TBBC has explored the conditions in Burma as it plans to establish a presence inside the country where it can coordinate between humanitarian agencies on both sides of the border.