July 11, 2014
PHUKET: Thailand and Burma have agreed to ”facilitate the safe return” of 130,000 displaced persons to their homeland, General Prayuth Chan-ocha said tonight.
He also said the issue of the Rohingya boatpeople had been discussed with Myanmar’s Commander in Chief of Defence Forces, General Min Aung Hlaing, in Bangkok this week.
”The gist of the meeting is that Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) will cooperate in helping displaced persons from fighting in Myanmar,” the general said in his weekly national telecast.
He took charge of Thailand in a coup on May 22.
Details are likely to emerge in the next day or two about precisely what the two countries plan for the large number of refugees from Burma now living in Thailand.
”These people have been staying in temporary shelters with certain restrictions for a long time,” the general said.
”This has been a protracted problem. There are up to 130,000 displaced persons in nine temporary shelters in our country.
”Thailand and Myanmar will facilitate the safe return to their homeland.
”Additionally, other areas of cooperation include the nationality verification of the Rohingya, demarcation of borders in undisputed areas, not supporting resistance groups in their respective territories, as well as cooperation in energy development.”
He added that Myanmar officials had been grateful for ”measures to ensure the safety and better work environment for Myanmar workers in fishing vessels.”
It’s not clear as yet what the general means in terms of returning the Burmese now living in border camps.
Movement of the people living in the camps was restricted earlier this month. Some have lived in the camps for up to 25 years.
The use by General Prayuth of the word ”Rohingya” may prove controversial inside Burma where the Muslim minority does not have citizenship and are referred to as ”Bengalis.”
Violence in Burma – labelled ethnic cleansing by many – has driven an estimated 80,000 Rohingya to put to sea since mid-2012.
Many of them are abused by human traffickers in jungle camps on their way to Malaysia. How so many Rohingya land in southern Thailand without being detected and intercepted remains a mystery.