Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Karen refugees seek safety guarantees


Karen youngsters play chinlone at a Thai-Burmese border refugee camp. (PHOTO: DVB)



The Karen Refugee Committee (KRC) has said that refugees on the Thai-Burmese border believe they can only return to their homeland when there is a guarantee of safety following a nationwide ceasefire.

The announcement comes as reports circulate that internally displaced persons and refugees will be repatriated while the peace talks are ongoing between ethnic armed groups and the Burmese government.

“The refugees need to be able to guarantee their own lives and safety,” said Blooming Night Zan, the joint general-secretary of the KRC.

On February 28, at an informal meeting, the KRC agreed to work together with the Karen State government on the issue of refugee repatriation.

Kyaw Soe Lin, a refugee from Umpium camp in Thailand’s Tak District, said the Thai border-based refugees are currently not interested in going home, citing fears for their safety.

Mae La refugee camp committee secretary Naw Day Day Poe told DVB that some refugees who earlier tried to go home to eastern Burma had returned to the refugee camps for various reasons of insecurity.

A resettlement programme to the United States was ended in January, and other third countries have also halted their intakes of resettled refugees from the Thai-Burmese border camps.

Around the end of last year, aid group The Border Consortium cut its food rations and educational support for the 120,000 mostly Karen refugees still at the border, said Kyaw Soe Lin.

Nonetheless, he said, most refugees require more incentives to return to their homes, specifically landmine clearances, rehabilitation projects, job creation schemes, and financial assistance to cover accommodation and food.