A third batch of refugees from camps along the Thai-Burma border who wishes to voluntarily want to return to Burma are being processed by officials from the UN refugee agency and Burma and Thailand. In Mae La camp, the largest camp on the Thai Burma border, fewer people showed up at the processing center.
Officials from the Royal Thai Government and the Burma government conducted interviews with refugee households who were registered with the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) run Voluntary Repatriation Center (VCR) that opened in Mae La camp on November 15th.
Camp officials said not everyone who registered their names at the VRC came for the interview.
“At first, there were 21 people who registered their names at VRC,” explained Saw Samson, the Mae La refugee camp secretary, “but on the day when officials from both countries came to interview them, only 18 people showed up. Among the 18 people, 8 of them decided not to return.”
A UNHCR-Myanmar earlier email response to Karen News said poor weather conditions could impact on the preparations for the third batch of returnees.
A total of 164 refugees returned through a process coordinated by both governments in two facilitated returns, with the support of UNHCR and its partners. In the first batch 65 people, 19 households from the Nupo Refugee Camp were repatriated back to Burma on October 26th, 2016 and in the second batch, 93 people from Mae La, Umphien, Nupo, Ban Don Yan, and Mai Nai Soi (Karenni) Refugee camps were repatriated back on May 2018.
Currently, there are a total of nine refugee camps along Thai-Myanmar border – Mae La, Umphiem, Nupo, Mae Rama Luang, Mae La Oon, Tham Hin, Ban Don Yan, Karenni No.(1) and No.(2) camps – with more than 90,000 refugees resident in the camps.