Since ceasefire talks between the Karen National Union and the Burma government refugees in camps in Thailand are facing an uncertain future. Rumors about repartition plans and funding cuts by international donors have all added to the tension. Last week as many as 100 protesters took to the streets to voice their concerns over refugee registration.
Around 100 new refugees in Nu Po refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border staged a peaceful protest in front of the camp’s United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees for four hours demanding to be officially registered as refugees so they could start proceedings to be resettled in a third country.
Most of the protesting refugees are new arrivals to the Nu Po camp located in Umpang district, Tak Province.
These refugees arrived in Thailand in 2009 after conflict forced them across the border, but so far have yet to be officially registered by the UNHCR and the Thai government. The refugees have only received food rations registration papers issued by the Thai Burma Border Consortium, a Non-Government Organization that delivers aid to refugees in the Thai Burma border camps.
Saw Thoo Lei Doh Soe, secretary of Nu Po camp committee said that the protesters are refugees waiting to resettle to a third country.
Speaking to Karen News, Saw Thoo Lei Doh Soe said it is now not easy to get the UN to register new refugees.
“Even though they protest, it is not possible for the UNHCR to register them as official refugees and for them to be resettled. There are many policies and regulations laid down by the Thai authorities and it is only when Thai authority allows it that the UNHCR can register refugees.”
The protesters say they met and talked with the UNHCR field officer, but they have yet to receive a clear answer about their future.
Saw Tun Win, a member of the Karen Refugee Committee who witnessed the protest said that the demonstration was mainly about resettlement.
This is the first time a protest has taken place at Nu Po refugee camp, the protesters included ethnic nationalities from the Kachin, Chin, Mon, Burman, Arakan and Shan.
According to KRC’s latest report there are over 10,000 refugees living in Nu Po refugee camp – it is estimated around 8,000 are officially registered and around 3,000 are still unregistered.