Refugees wary of Govt repatriation ‘pilot’

For the first time since 1974 the Burma government has met with the Karen Refugee Committee in Hpa-an Town. The government put forward its plan to KRC that they wanted to ‘trial a pilot project’ to take back about 50 refugees households who are now living in camps on the Thai Burma border.

On April 26, over 30 members of the government led by the Karen State Minister U Zaw Min invited refugee camp chairmen, Saw Wah Htee and Saw Tone Tone, and the KRC’s chairman Saw Robert Htwe to discuss the refugee issue in the Karen State government’s office in Hpa-an Town.

Speaking to Karen News, the KRC’s joint secretary, Naw Blooming Night Zan, said.

“There are many people from international governments and the International Non-Government Organizations helping on refugee repatriation. The [Karen] State government wants refugees to return as a ‘pilot’ experiment. However, the KRC positions and response to the ‘pilot’ plan is it that depends on the stability of the [current] peace process in Burma.”

The Karen State government has nominated Sukali and Wawlay Khi in Myawaddy Township and Hlaingbwe Town in Hlaingbwe Township in Karen State as potential repatriation sites for refugees from the Thai-Burma Border. KRC said while it welcomes the government’s offer, KRC wants refugees to return only after the building of a genuine peace between the Burmese government and the Karen National Union (KNU). KRC said that when it is time to implement the repatriation of refugees, KRC wants to see all refugees returned at the same time.

During the meeting between the State government and the KRC, delegations from both sides accepted that communications opportunities now exist and they will both continue to build trust and openness.

A woman refugee from Mae La refugee camp told Karen News.

“We do not want to return as an experiment. I think the government will exploit this for its own political benefit. I do not know whether it is safe for refugees to return or not. As it is only an experiment, I am [both] concerned and scared.”

Colonel Aung Lwin, the minister of Karen State Border and Security Affairs, invited KRC via the KNU, to Hpa-an Town to discuss refugee issues. The KRC delegation met with other government lawmakers including the State Minister, U Zaw Min.

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