The Karen State government has been making arrangements for the return of over 90 Burmese refugees from refugee camps in Thailand back to Burma.

A total of 96 people from 19 Burmese families, who have been living at refugee camps in Thailand for a variety of reasons, will return on 25 October.

The Karen State Chief Minister, Nan Khin Htwe Myint, inspected the preparation of temporary camps for the returning refugees at Kyauk Lone Gyi Pagoda Road in Myawaddy, Karen State on 15 October.

She said: “They [the refugees] will return on the 25th [October]. I have come to inspect the arrangements made for them. We will meet all their livelihood needs: education, health, and resettlement. The government will take step-by-step measures in handling the issue of the hundreds of thousands of refugees living in Thailand.”

The Burmese and Thai governments cooperated together to organise the return of the refugees after some of the refugees living in Nu Po Refugee Camp and other refugee camps on the Thai side of the Burma – Thai border said they were interested in resettling back in Burma.

Over 93,000 refugees live in seven Karen refugee camps on the Thai side of the Burma-Thai border. The Karen Refugee Committee (KRC) that represents the refugees in the camps has policies on resettlement issues, but according to the KRC the group of refugees due to return on the 25 October are returning voluntarily.

Naw Blooming Night Zan, a KRC spokesperson said: “This issue hasn’t been discussed with the KRC. The refugees that want to return registered with the UNHCR (the United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and are going back in line with their own wishes. We are not forcing refugees to return home and we are not going to stop them if they want to return home.”

Of the 19 returning families 17 will move to a temporary camp in Myawaddy and officials will arrange the resettlement of the two other families in Chin State and Magway Region.

U Zaw Min, the director of the Karen State Social Welfare Department said: “Seventeen families will temporarily live in Myawaddy for now, then they will be given houses in Lay Kay Kaw Myothit when the houses are complete. The relevant officials from Chin State and Magway Region will come to take the remaining two families.”

The Karen Social Welfare Department said that they will work in tandem with international organisations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Save the Children to assist the families who will be temporarily living in Myawaddy with their health, educational, social, physical and mental needs.

This will be the first resettlement programme for returning refugees from the border area run by the Thai and Burmese governments.