News / Asia

Rights Groups Concerned About Thai Repatriation of Myanmar Refugees

FILE - Karen refugees leave after a church service at Mae La refugee camp in Ta Song Yang district of Tak province, northern Thailand.
FILE - Karen refugees leave after a church service at Mae La refugee camp in Ta Song Yang district of Tak province, northern Thailand.
Ron Corben

Thailand's military junta says it has reached agreement with neighboring Myanmar to repatriate up to 130,000 refugees who had fled violence and conflict across the border in recent decades. Rights groups and activists say the refugees should only be sent back when security has improved and the domestic economy is stronger.

Thailand's military leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has said a joint effort would be made in the repatriation of the more than 100,000 refugees living in camps along the Thai border with Myanmar, some for as long as 30 years.
 

Thailand, refugee campsThailand, refugee camps
x
Thailand, refugee camps
Thailand, refugee camps

Prayuth, head of the National Council for Peace and Order, said Thailand and Myanmar - also known as Burma - would facilitate the "safe return" of the refugees in accordance with human rights standards.
 
The refugees, largely ethnic Karen from Myanmar as well as Karenni and Shan among others, fled past conflicts as the groups battled the central government over claims for greater autonomy. Most groups have reached settlements with the government or ceasefire agreements. But not all feel safe to return.
 
Rights groups have expressed concern over the refugees' safety and ability to return to former properties that may have been confiscated or  heavily land mined.
 
Activist, Bo Kyi, a campaigner for the release of political prisoners in Myanmar, said security remained fragile in the border regions.
 
"Sending back refugees to Burma is really dangerous for most of the refugees because Burma did not get peace and we don't know [when] there will be another conflict in Karen state. Burma is not ready [with] job creation for those returning refugees, and then land confiscation also landmine problems are not over yet. Therefore I have great concern," he said.
 
Thai civilian governments had raised the issue of refugee repatriation in the past. But what little progress had been made was often achieved in the face of international criticism.
 
Debbie Stothard, spokeswoman for the rights group, Alternative ASEAN Network, said the Thai military has shown resolve to settle the refugee issue since seizing power in May.
 
"Now I think there's quite a strong fear that this is going to happen especially because the U.N. [United Nations] and international agencies have been working on this. But the situation is still extremely fragile and dangerous. We're actually seeing more people displaced. And if you happen to be a refugee of Muslim background then you are particularly vulnerable," she said.        
 
Since violence erupted two years ago in ethnic Rohingya areas of Myanmar, tensions have risen between Buddhists and Muslims.
 
Stothard said refugees also feared persecution by the Myanmar military, which, she said, still committed rights abuses with impunity -- a key reason why many people fled in the past.
 
Refugee monitors, such as Karen Refugee Committee spokesperson Blooming Night Zan, said a lack of detail in the plans was also unsettling. But she said she hoped the repatriation would be done in accordance with international standards.
 
"As we don't understand the details of the plan this is our concern on it. But then we are still based on the humanitarian understanding and they still keep going on the mercy and the concern to the refugees. But then what I understand is there will be one day the right time that the refugees can return to their home," she said.
 
Rights groups are calling on the United Nations refugee agency to closely monitor the repatriation program. They say their return may be premature, especially in the face of cuts in aid to Myanmar and the need for more political reforms inside the country.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid