Myanmar refugees return home from Thailand with UNHCR support
After decades of displacement, 93 refugees in Thailand have returned to south-eastern Myanmar through a process coordinated by the Royal Thai Government and the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, with the support of UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and its partners. The returns mark further progress in the voluntary repatriation of refugees from Thailand.
The refugees departed yesterday from five refugee camps on the border and split into two groups that crossed from Thailand into Myanmar’s Kayin and Kayah States. They were received by Myanmar authorities and assisted at two reception centres, from where they will go on to villages and towns in both states, or in some cases to Bago and Sagaing Regions and Yangon.
Refugees in Thailand have been expressing interest in returning home and have begun making plans for their future beyond the camps in Thailand in the hope that peace and stability will prevail in their places of origin in south-eastern Myanmar. UNHCR expects returns to continue. In south-eastern Myanmar, conditions allow for UNHCR to facilitate the voluntary return of refugees from Thailand to that area. In Myanmar’s Rakhine State, however, UNHCR believes that the situation is not yet conducive for the return of Rohingya refugees.
UNHCR and its UN partners, as well as non-governmental and community-based organisations, support refugees who voluntarily wish to return from Thailand to Myanmar by providing information on conditions in return areas, counselling, and other assistance, such as transportation and reintegration support. UNHCR works to ensure that any returns are voluntary, safe, and conducted in a dignified manner.
In the first such facilitated return movement in October 2016, 71 Myanmar refugees returned home from Thailand and UNHCR has been monitoring their situation since their return. While yesterday’s second facilitated return movement is an encouraging step towards a solution to the refugees’ protracted displacement and encampment in Thailand, UNHCR will continue to advocate for a strengthened process that is both timely and predictable, allowing refugees to plan their futures with dignity and governments and other actors to operate efficiently.
UNHCR also continues to advocate for a significant increase in donor support for community-based development activities in south-eastern Myanmar to address the social needs and development aspirations of all citizens in that area, which will in turn further the sustainability of refugee returns and the reintegration process.
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