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Thai government to ask 70,000 Burmese refugees to go home

This photo taken on 4 November 2010 shows a woman and her baby walking inside the Mae La refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border. (Photo: AFP)

Thailand will ask nearly 70,000 refugees displaced by fighting in Burma to return home, but only on a voluntary basis. Those ready to make the trip back home will be sent only gradually, 3rd Army chief Lieutenant General Vijak Siribansop said Thursday.

Naypyidaw has prepared areas for them and current peace talks with ethnic armed groups in Burma look promising, he said.

The refugees’ return will focus on their “safety and dignity” to ensure there will be no danger to them and that they receive good treatment, Vijak said. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will coordinate and fund their return, while the Thai government will act as a facilitator, he said.

There are currently 69,128 Burmese refugees living in seven camps overseen by the 3rd Army. Among the camps is Ban Ma La in Tha Song Yang district, Ban Um Piam in Phop Phra district and Ban Nu Pho in Umphang district.

The other four camps are in remote villages in Mae Hong Son — Ban No Soi in Muang district and Ban Mae Suri in Khun Yuam district, while Ban Mae Lama Luang and Ban Mae La Lun are in Sop Moei district.

“We will also teach the refugees about King Rama IX’s sufficiency economy,” Vijak said, hoping these principles would be able to inspire them to pursue productive lives in Burma.

This story was originally published by the Bangkok Post here