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Burmese Repatriation (or not)

Friday, December 14th, 2012

A couple nights ago I went to the Thailand Foreign Exchange Club in the penthouse of the Maneeya Building to sit at the bar along with all the foreign correspondents and reporters and see a documentary and listen to a panel of speakers about the repatriation (or not) of the 160,000 Burmese refugees in the camps in Thailand along the Burmese border.

As with everything else in the world, this issue is incredibly complicated too. Apparently the Burmese army didn’t get the memo about the cease-fire in a dirty war against the Shan, Karen and Mon minorities. There is no political stability or rule of law and many of the refugees either have no place to go back to because their land was confiscated and homes burned or they are petrified of violence perpetrated by the Army. With no transparency, rumors and tension abound. The UN is supposed to be coordinating this but they are kept in the dark too by the Burmese government who is calling the shots (so to speak) and no one seems to know what will happen…and killings and rapes go on with impunity.

In this information vacuum and continuing threat of violence, the minorities have issued some conditions: A nationwide ceasefire between the ethnic armed groups and the Army, rule of law and human rights improved, military bases withdrawn in the areas where they would return, landmines in areas cleared in areas where refugees would return, minority representatives must be at the table during planning and decision making and implementation. The repatriation process must conform with international principles of repatriation ensuring that refugees would return voluntarily and in safety and dignity and that those who do not wish to return to their original place can choose to live elsewhere. This last one will be particularly sticky with the Thai government. This will take years.

During the Q&A a guy stood at the microphone and started ranting loudly and vociferously about the lack of care and attention being given to the Rohingya Muslims who are native to Burma, but who are ethno-linguistically related to the Indo-Aryan peoples of India and Bangladesh (as opposed to the Sino-Tibetan people of Burma). The region of Rakhine (Arakan) was annexed and occupied by Burma in the 1700s thus bringing the Rohingya people under Burmese occupation.

As of 2012, 800,000 Rohingya live in Burma. According to the UN, they are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Many Rohingya have fled to ghettos and refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, and to areas along the Thai-Myanmar border.

This was all brewing of course 10 years ago (indeed for the last 30 years) when we visited Burma and found the people to be sweet and very friendly. They were hungry to talk to foreigners if they could speak some English…usually the people who had been English teachers before India left. (See my other blog entries re Burma) Now with the opening of Burma it’s all coming to a head.

In the Burma Couchsurfing group I think every backpacker in SE Asia will be there this winter…hopefully witnessing but avoiding harm if they are sensible enough to not try and sneak their way into the border areas.

Doctors Without Borders & Burma

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Aid to Burma
Wednesday June 4
Press Conference with Doctors Without Borders
Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand in Bangkok

Question: How many people still need help?
Answer: Cannot estimate people who still need help…there are little huts among many little rivers…don’t know what was a village…was it there…how many huts were lost. Could get into the west…were obstructed from getting into the east by the authorities. So we cannot say how many people still need help.
[read on]

Press Conference on Burma

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008
Tuesday May 27 2008 Dr. Surin Pisuwan, Secretary General, ASEAN, reporting at the Foreign Correspondent's Club in Bangkok Thailand on the donors' conference Sunday with Gen. Than Shwe of Myanmar and UN chief Ban Ki Moon in Yangon. The ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hanoi Not Burma

Friday, May 23rd, 2008
Well, I gave up on getting a visa to Burma. "You retired? What was your last job? What organization did you work for?" And he didn't like my passport. Too many stamps from too many ... [Continue reading this entry]

“The River of Lost Footsteps”

Friday, May 16th, 2008
The Bangkok Post review says that this timely book by Thant Myint-U, published by Faber and Faber London, rewrites 3,500 years of Burmese history "in order to enrich today's debate on Burma and establish a strong base for future analysis ... [Continue reading this entry]

Now The Junta Makes More Sense

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008
It appears that the cyclone has done the Burmese generals a big favor in their genocide against minorities. The International Herald Tribune reports that the junta is stealing and stockpiling food and supplies...doling it out only to those favored...the Burmese. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Burma Embassy, Cows And A Guesthouse

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008
Bought plane tickets a month ago to go to Burma with a Thai friend. But Air Asia won't let us cancel our tickets without losing the money. So I spent all afternoon in the embassy office with a few others ... [Continue reading this entry]

Aid To Burma

Friday, May 9th, 2008
The U.N. is reporting as many as 100,000 dead and more missing. International media is reporting that most countries wanting to send aid to Burma, including the U.S., are waiting outside the country in ships, helicopters and planes...waiting for permission ... [Continue reading this entry]

Panties Subverting Burma’s Junta

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007
To widespread international condemnation, the military in Myanmar, also known as Burma, crushed mass anti-regime demonstrations recently and continues to hunt down and imprison those who took part. So the International Herald Tribune has reported Friday that women in several ... [Continue reading this entry]

Power To The People

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007
It is ironic that people who suffer from the worst oppression seem to be the most able to thrive and "find themselves and their calling," a woman friend from Iran recently said to me as we were discussing the release ... [Continue reading this entry]

Aung San Suu Kyi

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
18016136-Dassk4.jpeg In August of 2002, next door to a restaurant in the small village of Taunggy, Burma, I struck up a conversation with a young university student who was tending a small bookstore. "Can everyone speak (out) ... [Continue reading this entry]

Dual Pricing

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007
Found a hilarious travel article on Bootnall today about the luxury tax...or dual pricing for foreigners as it is called: The Luxury Tax - Asia, Europe, South America By: Adam Jeffries Schwartz The following is a guide to how the luxury tax is ... [Continue reading this entry]

Stamp-Out to Burma

Thursday, February 3rd, 2005
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171164904627.gif "Stamping out" consists of leaving Krabi Thailand at a border the case of Ranong the border is with Burma...and then "stamping" back into Thailand. To do this they went to the Thai immigration ... [Continue reading this entry]

Volcanos in Tengchong

Saturday, December 21st, 2002
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif A young Chinese woman on the bus had struck up a conversation in English...telling us about the sights around Tengchong. We thought that maybe we could pay her to guide us to the ... [Continue reading this entry]

He Ho To Rangoon

Thursday, September 5th, 2002
Burma.gif Flight to Rangoon From He Ho Question: How do you know the Westerners standing behind you in the airport check-in line are not American? Answer: Their backpacks are pink, purple, yellow and orange. ... [Continue reading this entry]

No Political Freedom

Wednesday, September 4th, 2002
Today Burmese citizens are forbidden to talk to foreigners about politics and of course this makes the Burmese afraid to talk to you about anything. Government workers from mail carriers to university professors, must sign a pledge not to discuss ... [Continue reading this entry]

Sr. Christine’s Orphanage

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2002
Burma.gif While Bob was trekking I decided to walk a couple kilometers up the hill in Kalaw to Christ the King Church. Sr. Christine, a Burmese nun who was walking behind me caught ... [Continue reading this entry]

Trek to Pa-O Villages

Monday, September 2nd, 2002
Burma.gif Bob was happy to get out and stretch his legs on a two day trek in the hills above Kalaw. His guide used to be a chemistry teacher and school principal who only ... [Continue reading this entry]

A UNICEF Advisor

Saturday, August 31st, 2002
Burma.gif In Kalaw, at an outdoor tea house, I called out to a Western looking couple walking by...look...somebody from the West! The couple, from Israel, laughed and joined us at our low ... [Continue reading this entry]

Kalaw…British Hill Station

Thursday, August 29th, 2002
Burma.gif In a monsoon rainstorm we climbed off the train in this cool wooded hill station built during the British occupation. The locals laughed (with me) at my little paper sun umbrella I carried that ... [Continue reading this entry]


Wednesday, August 28th, 2002
Burma.gif We took a taxi back over the mountain from Tounggye to Schwenguan where we were to catch a train for the three hour ride through beautiful terraced rice fields and vegetable patches to Kalaw-a ... [Continue reading this entry]

Repression & The People

Wednesday, August 28th, 2002
Burma.gif Next door to the restaurant in Taunggyi I struck up a conversation with a young university student who was tending a a small bookstore. "Can everyone speak (out) in America," he asked. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Taunggyi…Last Frontier of Burma

Wednesday, August 28th, 2002
JTOL4njiflVtj5kLlwVbAM-2006175061519331.gif Taunggyi is the official end of the line for east-bound foreigners in Burma--at least if you are travelling by road. Beyond Taunggyi lies a world of black-marketeers, ruby miners, insurgent armies and opium and methamphetamine warlords. ... [Continue reading this entry]

He Ho & Inle Lake

Monday, August 26th, 2002
Burma.gif August 26 2002 It is possible to take a ferry up the Irrawady to Mandalay but we chose not to do this because we heard the ferry was government-run and we tried very hard not ... [Continue reading this entry]

Nyaung U

Friday, August 23rd, 2002
Burma.gif The largest village in the area is Nyaung U about 5 km up the Irriwaddy River from the Pagan Archeological Site and you can visit the market and food stalls there by taking a ... [Continue reading this entry]

Pagan’s 2000 Stupas

Thursday, August 22nd, 2002
See Burma Video JTOL4njiflVtj5kLlwVbAM-2006175061519331.gif August 22 2002 (Pagan was previously called Bagan) I really would have preferred the rickety and slow train north so we could see the countryside but to reserve the most time possible ... [Continue reading this entry]

Poverty, Government Greed and Human Sweetness

Sunday, August 18th, 2002
JTOL4njiflVtj5kLlwVbAM-2006175061519331.gif Video August 18, 2002 Rangoon (renamed Yangon) We took Thai Air to Rangoon. Bob left his Lonely Planet Guidebook Burma (renamed Myanmar by the military junta) on the plane and of ... [Continue reading this entry]