The returnees who repatriated from refugee camps, which is the Kayah (Karenni) tribes refuged camp located in the border of Kayah State and Thailand, are still struggling to make ends meet.
In the current political ceasefire, some people from the camp have returned to their hometown.
The rest want to come back but have not been able to do so due to some difficulties. Most of the returnees who fled from civil war are resettled in Shardaw Township, and some are currently struggling to rehabilitation.
There are some who have returned legally with the permission of the government and some who have returned voluntarily. It is said those who return legally with the permission of the government received government support, but not enough.
Soe Meh is among those who have fled to Karenni refugee camp in Thai border and have officially returned to Shardaw with government permission. The government provided 300,000 for three months stipends to a family who returned. Soe Meh says she wants the government to provide more support for subsequent returnees.
“Since I was returning first, the parents and relatives who left behind in the camp, if they return, there are a lot of shortcomings for the current government and so does the past government. We want the new government to provide at least a year of food supply for those who want to return legally from the refugee camps. Since they have no land and a house, I want the current governments to consider it.”
In Kayah State, there are now more than 100 government-sponsored returnees, most of them are Shardaw residents. There have been four batches who have returned with the government repatriation arragement.
Colonel Myint Wai, the State Minister for Security and Border Affairs, said the government was taking care of the returnees who return volunteerily.
“We have built houses for the newreturnees as much as we can. We have asked them to go to the UNHCR and find out what they need to do.”
Poe Meh, who has been officially returning to Shardaw with government permission, has been back for about two years. When she returned, she received a small grant from the government and had difficulty rebuilding her house.
“The problem is when we built houses, we didn’t have children to help cutting wood and bamboo. When we asked our neighbors, they just said they would help it. Even when I said them that I will pay for the work, they replied me yes and they did not help. I was very sad. The father, my spouse, had to work alone and have chronic injury, so he was too tired to do it. When I think back, I feel very sad. ”
Maw Moe Myar, who won a seat in previous election in the Pyithu Hluttaw (People’s Assembly) in Shardaw Township, said preparations would be made to facilitate the rehabilitation of the returnees.
“What we want to request is for them (returnees) to be able to provide support for six months or a year, and when they return, we need to think about their education, their schooling, their basic health care, their social status in the village, what the rules are, how they fit in with the villagers, what is the best way to work together. These are the crucial points we need to consider in our future coordinations.”
There are about 10,000 refugees in the Karenni refugee camp, and all of them must coordinate their return, said U Banya, Director of the Karenni Human Rights Group (KnHRG).
“We will give full citizenship and protect our civil rights so that these people can come back. If so, our Myanmar will have full dignity in international community. As a domestic issue, when the returnees return home, it will be great if we will have a systematic policy. I can say that tens of thousands would be very easy to repatriate if they coordinate effectively with civil society organizations and the ethnic armed groups in goodwill. I dare to say we can make it all right in three years. We will not sit back against the government and serve it for the rest of our lives. Our citizens can stand on their own two feet. But I would like to comment that it would be perfect if the people are given the opportunity to earn a living by being granted free citizenship.”
Shardaw Township, the largest number of returnees from the camps, is arguably the least developed township and one under the control of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP). It is still considered a black zone by the government.
Shardaw has a population of over 7,000.