The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has finalized voluntary repatriation for 161 refugees that will begin on May 7th from five refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border.
UNHCR sources stated that this is the second batch of refugees that will be voluntary repatriated under an agreement between the Royal Thai Government and the Government of the Union of Burma.
UNHCR’s sources said they have the permission of the Thai Ministry of Interior, to prepare for the organized return of 50 refugee households registered at the UNHCR Voluntary Repatriation Center (VRC) in Mae La, Umpheim, Ban Don Yang and Ban Mai Nai Soi.
Saw Bwe Say, Secretary of the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC) spoke to Karen News.
“UNHRC informed us about the plan, the number of people and locations. But, it doesn’t include the names and ages of the people. They said they will let us know after the return process on May 7th.”
According to information from UNHCR, 161 refugees are voluntarily returning to Burma, these include; 60 people from 20 households in Mae La, 35 people from 13 households in Nu Po, 30 people from 8 households in Umphiem, 35 people from 9 households in Ban Mai Nai Soi, and 1 person from Ban Don Yang.
The regions that the refugees will return to are: Karen State, Karenni (Kaya) State, Yangon, Bago and Sagai. They will be transported through the Mae Sot- Myawaddy Friendship Bridge and Huay Ton Non/Bp 13 border pass.
Saw Honest, leader of the Mae La refugee camp told Karen News that he does not know all the details concerning the return of the camp residents, as it has been kept confidential.
“We don’t know who are going back because it was planned by Thai [authorities] and UNHCR. We only know the number of households and their population. Previously, UNHCR told us that 101 people were registered to return voluntarily. But now, they are only planning to send back 60 people. They said that they would tell us the names and ages only after the return process was completed.”
UNHCR sources also said that they will provide aid during the repatriation process via the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and that they will give 1,800 Thai Baht to each person for their transportation costs and an additional 5,400 Thai Baht for each adult and 3,600 Thai Baht for each child.
The UNHCR source explained that the World Food Programme (WFP) will provide each person with Thai Baht 2,100 equivalent to six month rations, on their departure, as well as provide mosquito nets, hygiene kit for women, travel bag and documents.
Since the start of the voluntary repatriation program, UNCHR and both the Thai and Burma governments have organized the return of 19 households from Nu Po refugee camp on October 26th last year through Mae Sot-Myawaddy.
According to UNHCR, there are 99,886 refugees in nine refugee camps along Thai Burma border. Many refugees said that they are still observing the current Burma political situation and armed conflicts before considering repatriation.