TBBC Visits Rangoon/Yangon
Recent reforms in Burma/Myanmar have raised the possibility of refugees returning during the next few years. However the Governments of both Thailand and Myanmar acknowledge that conditions are not yet conducive and that it will take time before there can be voluntary repatriation in safety and with dignity.
TBBC visited Rangoon/Yangon in early September to explore the possibility of establishing an official presence in Burma/Myanmar so that it can work from both sides of the border in advance of any eventual refugee return. At the invitation of Minister U Aung Min from the President’s Office, TBBC participated in meetings over four days with a range of government advisors, civil society and international community representatives.
TBBC has already begun reorienting its programmes to build preparedness for the return and reintegration of displaced persons. This will include holding consultations with all stakeholders, carrying out needs assessments and agreeing on principles and standards, but there will be many challenges in reintegrating refugees and internally displaced people into conflict-affected communities.
Establishing an official presence in Myanmar would enable TBBC to build on 28 years of relationships and trust. The visit to Rangoon/Yangon confirmed the need for improved coordination between humanitarian agencies on both sides of the border and to support the flow of information between resident and displaced communities. Creating and supporting linkages between civil society organisations recognised by the Government and those recognised by non-state armed groups will be key to ensuring community participation in the planning and management of return and reintegration processes.
The opportunity to visit Rangoon/Yangon and the encouragement received from all stakeholders reaffirms TBBC’s hopes that negotiating a sustainable solution to conflict and displacement is a realistic objective. Possibilities for TBBC establishing this presence are being explored in conjunction with the emergence of the Myanmar Peace Center.
The peace process however, remains fragile and it is too soon to be promoting the return of displaced persons. Until such time TBBC remains committed to promoting the rights of refugees and IDPs to assistance and protection and, in particular, to ensuring that basic services to 140,000 refugees in camps are maintained.