European Union delegates and a number of foreign ambassadors to Thailand visited the Tham Hin refugee camp in Rachaburi province. The group of diplomats told refugee leaders that they will be negotiating with the Burma government to ensure refugees can return to their country safely The diplomats said refugees should try to acquire skills in case of possible repatriation.
Saw Rimond Bu, the secretary of Tham Hin refugee camp spoke to Karen News.
“The issue of refugee repatriation was raised in the meeting. They [EU delegations] told us that now that the ethnic groups have held peace talk with the Burma government and there has been a reduction in armed conflict it was time to start to talk about refugees going home.”
Saw Rimond Bu said the diplomats said they would meet and discuss with the United Nation High Commission on Refugees, Thai government and “the Burma government so the refugees in Thailand can go home. They said they are working on the issue, but there is not yet an official solution.”
Saw Rimond Bu said the diplomats acknowledged, “that so far the plan is only to resettle the internally displaced people in Burma and does not include the refugees living in Thailand. They told us that we have to prepare ourselves. The UNHCR also encouraged refugees to acquire more skills in the camp so we can rebuild our lives when we go back home.”
The diplomats told the refugee committee at Tham Tin that refugee safety was a priority.
“They told us that unless there is peace in Burma they would not repatriate refugees.”
Saw Rimond Htoo said refugees are still uncertain over returning to Burma.
“I think only 45% of the refugees are ready to go back who have the skill to rebuild their lives, but the rest are still not ready or don’t have the necessary skills to rebuild their lives.”
The Tham Hin refugee camp committee said the camp is home to more than 6,000 refugees, who fled Burma Army offensives and human rights abuses.
The European ambassadors and diplomats to Thailand that visited Tham Hin are from Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Austria and Belgium.
The EU is one of the major humanitarian aid providers to the 150,000 refugees from Burma now living in Thailand. Rumors of repatriation of refugees has been an issues in the camps since the Karen National Union (KNU) and other armed ethic groups recently reached ceasefire agreements with the Burma government.
The Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), estimates that 95% of their funds in 2011 were donated to by the European Union, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Ireland, Norway, Republic of China (Taiwan), Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands and the USA.