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

Video Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs