Myanmar state counsellor expected to raise issue but 'Rohing ya' not on agenda
THE REPATRIATION of more than 100,000 Myanmar refugees who have been sheltered in border provinces for decades will be discussed when Aung San Suu Kyi meets Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday.
Suu Kyi, who is both state counsellor and foreign minister, will arrive in Bangkok on Thursday to strengthen bilateral ties with her Thai counterparts and discuss a wide range of issues including migrant workers and refugees.
According to deputy government spokesperson Maj-General Werachon Sukondhapatipak, Thailand has always been eager to return refugees back to Myanmar, but has been faced with legal and technical restraints.
The idea of repatriating refugees who fled civil war and political conflict since the mid-1980s has existed among Thai security |agencies for a long time, but little could be done due to the ongoing fighting and political problems in Myanmar.
The previous government led by Thein Sein had a clear policy to take them back, but only after peace could be maintained. Thein Sein's administration managed to sign a ceasefire pact eight armed ethnic groups, but many remained outside the peace process and armed struggles have continued.
The new government, which took power in April after winning the November elections, has yet to come up with a policy on the fate of Myanmar refugees in Thailand.
Obstacles to repatriation
On the Thai side, meanwhile, Werachon said the nationality proving procedure and endorsement of identity documents were the key obstacles in repatriating Myanmar refugees.
However, he said, Suu Kyi is bound to raise this issue with Prayut as she known for her fight for human rights.
Thailand has sheltered 105,261 refugees in nine camps in four border provinces from Mae Hong Son in the North to Ratchaburi province.
Suu Kyi is scheduled to visit a camp at Ban Tham Hin in Ratchaburi province on Saturday - the last day in her three-day visit.
However, the plight of Rohingya refugees appears unlikely to be raised when Suu Kyi meets Prayut on Friday. Hundreds of Rohingya were detained in Thailand after taking |dangerous trips down the Bay of Bengal from Myanmar’s western Rakhine State.
Most were escaping bad treatment from local authorities and attacks by the majority Buddhist population.
A United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that long-standing violations of Rohingya people’s rights could be considered a crime against humanity.
Prayut, meanwhile, chose to say little when asked if he would discuss the refugee situation, especially that of the Muslim Rohingya |people, with Suu Kyi.
“It’s their [Myanmar’s] domestic and sensitive issue. Don’t bother them much about it,” he said referring to the Rohingya crisis.
The Thai authorities have also been known for its poor treatment and unlawful detention of the Rohingya people.