Processing of refugees for repatriation set to begin

Processing of refugees for repatriation set to begin

Thai and Burmese authorities will begin checking documents of Burmese nationals displaced by war who are residing in Thailand to pave the way for their repatriation.

Checking paperwork will be the first step in dealing with the long-standing border issue after Burmese State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi promised to work with her Thai counterpart in repatriating several thousand displaced people back to Burma.

She made her pledge during an official visit to Thailand last week.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon returned on Thursday from a visit to Burma, where he signed an agreement to set up a joint committee to check refugees’ documents to “speed up action”, Thai Defence Ministry spokesman Khongcheep Tantrawanich said. The agreement was a follow-up to Suu Kyi’s visit.

Gen Prawit led security officials to meet Burmese high-ranking authorities three days after Suu Kyi finished her trip to Thailand last Saturday.

The deputy prime minister met Suu Kyi during his visit to Burma to discuss the problem of displaced persons and other issues, including those related to the Thai-Burmese border, the Dawei deep seaport development project and Burmese migrant workers in Thailand.

The displaced persons issue was top of Suu Kyi’s agenda during her visit to Thailand.

However, Thailand and Burma have not set a time frame for repatriation with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, stressing that it would only begin if “the situation is right”.

Estimates show there are up to 100,000 displaced persons from Burma living in camps and shelters in Thailand.

Gen Prawit also met Lt Gen Sein Win, Burma’s defence minister, and Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the Burmese armed forces.

The two sides discussed ways to enhance military relations and security cooperation. They agreed to more visits and training of armed forces personnel at various levels, according to Maj Gen Khongcheep.

They also discussed security-related problems affecting border administration, illegal immigration, transnational crime, terrorism and cross-border smuggling of contraband and drugs. A joint panel will work on solving these problems.

During talks with Gen Prawit, Burmese President Htin Kyaw conveyed his thanks to HRH Princess Sirindhorn for her donation to repair schools in Arakan State which were damaged by heavy storms last year, Maj Gen Khongcheep said.

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Both countries also agreed that a new bridge should link Burma and Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai District to help expand trade and investment and connect special economic zones on both sides of the border.

The bridge is expected to lift the economy as well as improve the quality of life of people in the two countries, Maj Gen Kongcheep said.

With regard to environmental issues, Thailand and Burma have agreed to encourage people to join a reforestation programme that will focus on border regions, he said.

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