Following complaints about a refugee profiling survey been carried out by the Mae Fah Luang Foundation (MFLF) in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Mae La refugee camp, officials met to discus the issues of complaint and agreed to continue its surveying.
Saw George, vice chairperson of the Karen Refugees Committee (KRC), said that officials from UNHCR, MFLF, KRC and the camp committee met to discuss the complaints on June 6.
“The survey questionnaires are not meant [as part of strategy] for refugee repatriation. The survey is for UNHCR to get refugees opinion about their positions on three main questions. There is more stress on [knowing] about refugee’s returning in order to know what to prepare if refugees are to return.”
Saw George said that the three main questions at the centre of the complaints were do refugees want to go back, do they want to continue living in Thailand or will refugees resettle to a third country. Saw George stressed that the refugees could openly choose to provide answers to only questions they wanted to answer.
On May 15, refugees in Mae La camp’s Zone A, complained that they were told it was compulsory for them to provide answers to the MFLF survey questionnaire – following complaints from camp residents the survey was suspended after two days.
Speaking to Karen News, a refugee from Mae La’s Zone A said.
“Their [MFLF] questions seemed like it was forcing refugees to return to Burma. That’s why we complained. Currently, it is not possible to return.”
Saw Honest, a chairperson of the Mae La refugee camp committee said they would, before starting the survey, explain its purpose to refugees to help them understand.
“The questions are the same as with the previous survey. However, the misunderstanding happened because refugees faced the problems in answering some more detailed questions. Now, the questions will be explained so the refugees completely understand it.”
On May 27, 3644 Mae La refugees’ signed a petition letter and sent it to the UNHCR stating that refugees do not agree with forced repatriation back to Burma and requested changes are made to the questionnaire.
The Mae Fah Luang Foundation was requested by UNHCR to help survey the 140,000 people in the nine refugee camps along the Thai-Burma Border. Refugees in the camps worry that they will be sent back before the situation in Burma is safe for them.