Earlier this month Thai authorities in Tak province instructed Nu Po refugee camp officials to list all residents and sort them into three categories.
Saw Thoo Lei Doh Soe, secretary of Nu Po camp committee said the instruction from the provincial Tak officials to the Thai administrators in the camp was to list refugees into the following three categories – resettlement to a third country, repatriation back to Burma or integration into local communities.
Saw Thoo Lei Doh Soe explained to Karen News that he does not know what will be the next stage, but said camp officials have to obey the official orders they are given.
“Last week, we were asked to make the list. We did what they [Thai officials] wanted us to do. We don’t know the details of what their plan is. All plans depend on the Thai authorities.”
Nu Po was not the first Thai refugee camp to categorize its residents. In August the Tak governor, Mr Samart Loifah, instructed officials in Umphiem refugee camp to make a list.
And it is not the first time refugee camps in Tak have been in Mr Loifah sights. Back in July, Mr Loifah was reported in the Thai media as saying he had held high level talks with Burma government officials about a number of refugee issues including closing all camps in Tak.
Refugees have mixed feelings about their names being listed, as they are uncertain what will be the planned outcome of the process. A resident of Section 7 in Nu Po camp said many refugees are worried.
“Some are worried they will be repatriated back to Burma. Other refugees are happy, thinking it will lead to being resettled to a third country. We heard that [authorities] took the names in Umphiem last month, but so far nothing has happened yet, so I don’t think our case will be different.”
Saw Robert Htwe, chairman of the Karen Refugee Committee said refugees could not be repatriated with the current ongoing conflict in Burma.
“I can’t say whether this should be done or not, but I can say that in the case of repatriation back to Burma – it can’t be done now as there is no peace or security in the current situation.”
The Nu Po refugee camp, in Umphang district of Tak province on the Thai Burma border, was set up in March 1997; the Karen Refugee Committee estimates it has a population of over 17,000 refugees.
There are seven Karen refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border with a total population of over 140, 000 people – the categorization listing by Thai authorities has so far only been carried out in two camps – Nu Po and Umphiem.