News / Asia

    Amid Burma Reforms, Steps to Resettle Those Displaced by Conflict

    People eat food distributed at a Buddhist monastery used as a collective shelter for those displaced by recent violence in Sittwe, June 17, 2012.
    People eat food distributed at a Buddhist monastery used as a collective shelter for those displaced by recent violence in Sittwe, June 17, 2012.
    Ron Corben
    BANGKOK, Thailand - Burma is developing plans, backed by the United Nations, to resettle hundreds of thousands of refugees, many of them internally displaced or living in camps in Thailand.

    While Thai officials are welcoming the action, U.N. agencies and rights groups say Thailand itself must address issues of greater protection to refugees and trafficked persons.

    There are more than 450,000 internally displaced people inside Burma, also known as Myanmar. They are mostly in the eastern states where ethnic Karen and Shan communities have fought long standing conflicts with the central government.

    The UNHCR is opening regional offices in Burma and talking with refugee groups to prepare for resettlement.

    Kitty McKinsey, a UNHCR spokesperson, says the priority in resettlement is with the internally displaced.

    “It’s the strategy of the ethnic groups themselves and the government, but mainly the ethnic groups themselves that they want the people who are displaced within Myanmar to go home first," she said. "That seems an issue of fairness and it seems a good strategy that they would go home first and make sure they can settle in then the refugees would come home. So that is going on.”

    But McKinsey says challenges to the resettlement process include demining villages that have been in conflict zones and providing jobs to the returnees.

    There are also some 140,000 ethnic Burmese in Thailand who have been living in refugee camps - some for as long as three decades.

    The political reforms in Burma over the past year have lifted the hopes of many in the refugee camps of returning home.

    Chairperson of the Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation (TCR) Thongtong Chantarangsu, says the initial steps of programs inside Burma to assist the internally displaced are underway.

    Thongtong says most refugees from the camps will return home in the coming years.

    “I wish I could say that in the next 10 years we’ll see a drastic change in Myanmar and the numbers of refugees, 100, 000 of them, who have been here for over 10 years, can be back to their homeland,” said Thongtong.

    The renewed effort to resettle Burmese refugees living in Thailand comes as Thai authorities are under scrutiny for their refugee policies.

    Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, says the country’s overall refugee protection measures have shown little improvement over the years.

    “There is no refugee law. Refugees, recognized by the UNHCR as refugees are still treated by the Thai Immigration Department as undocumented migrants; are still arrested and slammed into the IDC [Immigration Detention Center] in indefinite detention," said Robertson. "There’s a promise to change laws - it’s all process - we haven’t seen any concrete changes.”

    The U.S. Government and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons have both released reports critical of Thailand’s policies towards the trafficking of people and the rights of migrants.

    The U.N. Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngazi Ezeilo, in a report on Thailand presented Friday in Geneva, pointed to several shortcomings in Thai law enforcement and inadequate support for those persons trafficked. She was also critical of restrictive immigration policies and abuse of human rights of migrants.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora