Thailand’s 3rd Army commander will discuss preparations to repatriate refugees from nine camps along the Thai border during a summit on 1 to 3 August with Burmese officials.
An army source said Lt Gen Preecha Chan-ocha, co-chairman of the Thai-Burma Regional Border Committee (RBC), will attend the RBC meeting in Mergui. The regularly scheduled sessions typically focus on joint drug suppression, co-existence of Thai and Burmese residents in the border zone, migrant workers and other issues.
During this meeting, however, Lt Gen Preecha will inspect progress of a port-construction project in Mergui and discuss preparations to relocate about 130,000 Burmese refugees.
National Council for Peace and Order chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Burmese supreme commander Gen Min Aung Hlaing last week agreed that the camps will be closed and all the refugees returned.
The repatriation process currently is on hold and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has stopped interviews of the refugees at all the camps as Burma and third countries targeted for resettlement are not yet ready.
Thailand has divided the refugees into three groups: elderly Burmese who want to go home, but must be grouped according to ethnicity and origins; those who wish to resettle in the US and Europe; and younger refugees – many of whom were born in the Thai camps – who fear for their safety in Burma and wish to remain in the kingdom.
There are also about 3,000 other refugees whose original backgrounds are not clearly known.
The army source stressed, however, that “the NCPO’s policy is to send back all of them and close down all of the nine camps to end chronic security problems posed by the refugees. This matter is also related to the problem of migrant workers being solved by the NCPO”.