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Myanmar's Forgotten Refugees

 
 

The future for refugees living along the Thai-Myanmar border is more uncertain than ever.

Some 100,000 refugees living in the nine refugee camps along the border face a difficult decision; to return to fragile peace in Myanmar or continue living in the camps with no citizenship, legal protection, and declining rations.

To further complicate their situation, many can’t be reunited with their families who moved to the United States under a UNHCR mass resettlement program, because all refugee admissions programs have been suspended under President Donald Trump.

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During a six-decade year civil war, waged between the Burmese military and ethnic armed groups, hundreds of thousands refugees fled from their villages in Kayin (formerly Karen) State and took refuge on the border in temporary shelters. Despite a tenuous ceasefire in 2015, skirmishes continue, landmines haven’t been cleared, and many refugees believe the situation isn’t safe to return home to Myanmar. Karen Human Rights Group says many also have nothing to return home to, as their land was taken by the Burmese military.

Those living inside the camp have also had to learn to live with less in recent years. The central aid coordination committee inside the camps, the Border Consortium, has had to decrease food aid after they experienced a drop in support from some donors who moved their support from the border to inside central Myanmar. Refugees have also been denied the rights to travel outside the camps in search of food or work by Thai authorities.

This video features the plight of a teacher wanting to reunite with his family in the United States, a family wanting secure jobs, and a young entrepreneur who wants to chase the American dream. They shed light on the trauma many refugees are still facing after fleeing their homeland and losing family members when Burmese forces launched their attacks. The conversation has also shifted to growing fears that refugees will be forcibly repatriated, though many are afraid or unwilling to return to Myanmar.

Libby Hogan is a journalist based in Yangon, Myanmar.

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