This report covers the period January – December 2016. It outlines progress based on the Strategic Directions for Thailand and Burma/Myanmar 2013-2017. TBC’s programmes reached over 210,000 men, women, and children – 100,000 in nine refugee camps in Thailand, and 110,000 in 24 townships in SE Burma/Myanmar.
After the National League for Democracy’s landslide victory in 2015, the new government was sworn in at the end of March 2016. Myanmar’s fi rst civilian president in over 50 years took up offi ce and a State Counsellor position was created for Aung San Suu Kyi with a portfolio that included foreign affairs and peacebuilding. NLD representatives were appointed as Chief Ministers in all States and Regions.
The 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference (UPC) was held in August with participation of seventeen ethnic armed groups (EAGs). The conference raised a wide range of issues however, observers felt that little substantive movement occurred, highlighting the fact that the negotiation of a true peace will be a lengthy process.
State-based Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committees (JMC) were created in Shan and Karen States as well as Tanintharyi Region with representatives from the ethnic armed groups, the Tatmadaw,
Government, and civil society.
However, conflict escalated in Kachin and Northern Shan States resulting in over 120,000 people currently internally displaced. In Northern Rakhine State, a UN human rights report concluded that widespread violations against the Rohingya population indicated the very likely commission of crimes against humanity, resulting in 66,000 people fleeing into Bangladesh and 22,000 being internally displaced. In Karen state, escalation of conflict between the BGF and the DKBA led to the displacement of over 5,000 civilians and dampened hopes for an increase in refugee return during the dry season.
In Thailand a referendum on the new constitution was passed in August, consolidating the National Council for Peace and Order’s power. On October 13th, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away and the Royal Thai Government announced an official mourning period for one year.
The general election was further postponed to 2018.
Bi-lateral talks on return of refugees were held between the Government of the Union of Myanmar and the Royal Thai Government and in October, the first 71 refugees returned under a UNHCR facilitated voluntary return.
At the end of December 98,745 refugees remained in camps; 5,237 departed for third country resettlement, some 2,300 spontaneously returned to Burma/Myanmar, and a further 1,050 were reported as seeking work opportunities in Thailand.
TBC programmes highlighted return planning within an undefined timeframe, while continuing to ensure that limited resources were targeted to the most vulnerable in the communities. A Food Card system was piloted in two camps in place of in kind food assistance, increasing diversity in the diet and giving refugees more control over their resources.
Expenses for 2016 were THB 736 M, compared to a budget of THB 754 M, reflecting various downsizing/cost cutting measures that were implemented and commodity prices for most food and cooking fuel supplied were less than expected. TBC’s operating budget for 2017 is THB 701 M (USD 20 M)