Suu Kyi’s Trip to Refugee Camp in Thailand Scrapped

By Nyein Nyein 22 June 2016

BANGKOK, Thailand — Local Thai authorities have reportedly cancelled the State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s official visit to the Tham Hin refugee camp in Ratchaburi province on Saturday, according to sources close to the camp administration.

Suu Kyi will be arriving in Thailand’s capital Bangkok on Thursday for her three-day visit, and had planned to travel on Saturday to Tham Hin camp in Ratchaburi, where more than 6,000 Burmese refugees are residing.

The source, who chose to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of issues concerning the refugee camp, told The Irrawaddy that local Thai authorities had informed the camp committee on Wednesday that the trip had been cancelled, with no reason given.

“Communities in the camp would like to welcome our leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” the source said. “We would like her to see the situation of the camp in order to help us. We would like to raise some questions regarding refugees and hear what she has to say too.”

Heavy restrictions on access are in place for non-residents in the Tham Hin camp, the second-smallest of the nine refugee camps along the Thailand-Burma border.

Sally Thompson, director of the Thailand Border Consortium, said she had also been informed by her field staff about the cancellation of the trip, but had not received an official confirmation.

“If it was cancelled, everybody [the refugees and the NGOs] will be disappointed,” Thompson told The Irrawaddy. “It would have been a good opportunity for her [Aung San Suu Kyi] to have a dialogue with the refugees [who] can explain…why they are still here in the camp.”

Some of the issues related to refugee repatriation are supposed to be discussed during the State Counselor’s meeting with the Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday, she said.

Landmines, land allocation issues and military presence have all been cited as obstacles preventing the refugees from returning to Burma.

“The government of Myanmar is not ready, and at the moment the Thai government is waiting for the Myanmar government to say they are ready,” the Thailand Border Consortium’s Sally Thompson said.

Thai government spokesperson Maj-Gen Werachon Sukondhapatipak was quoted by Thailand-based English-language newspaper The Nation on Wednesday as saying that Thailand has always been eager to return refugees to Burma but has been unable to overcome legal and logistical hurdles to doing so.

Burma’s Ambassador to Thailand U Win Maung did not respond to multiple requests for comment.