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Laos: Ban Napho camp repatriation completed

Briefing Notes, 25 February 2000

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 February 2000, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The last group of 181 returnees from Ban Napho camp in Thailand left a transit centre at Nasaat in Laos on Sunday and are now in their home villages in Pak Ngeum district. This completes the repatriation of 1,164 Lao from the Ban Napho camp, which was carried out between 28 September and 15 December. With assistance from UNHCR, these returnees are now rebuilding their homes and most are preparing for the next rice planting season.

The emptying of the transit centre ends more than a decade of efforts by UNHCR to promote voluntary repatriation of the Lao people in Thailand. More than 350,000 people fled Laos beginning in 1975. Around 325,000 Lao have resettled in third countries and more than 25,000 others have returned to Laos under UNHCR's repatriation programme.

UNHCR is grateful to the Lao government for its cooperation in making the repatriation and reintegration of the returnees possible.

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Refugees from Myanmar: Ethnic Karens Seek Shelter

Over 2,000 refugees from Myanmar have crossed the border into Thailand in recent months. Most claim to be fleeing renewed conflict and human rights abuses in Kayin state, Myanmar. The mainly ethnic Karen refugees say their houses and villages have been burned and civilians killed. Many were weak upon arrival, suffering from illnesses such as malaria, after a long, dangerous journey to the camps through heavily mined areas. The refugees have been arriving at government-run camps, mainly in the Mae Hong Son area in northern Thailand.

UNHCR is working with the Thai government and non-governmental organisations to ensure the new arrivals are admitted to the camps and provided with adequate shelter and protection. Shelter has been a major issue as the capacity in many refugee camps has been overwhelmed. In a breakthrough in mid-May, Thai authorities agreed to build proper houses for the new arrivals.

There are currently 140,000 refugees from Myanmar living in nine border camps in Thailand, many of them have been there for up to 20 years.

Refugees from Myanmar: Ethnic Karens Seek Shelter

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