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This book provides essential background information on the protracted displacement of several ethnic groups along the Thai-Myanmar border before turning to an examination of whether Myanmar has now shifted into a post-conflict society, the expected challenges involved in reintegrating returnees to Myanmar, and the possibility of voluntary and sustainable repatriation. The authors conclude that, given the current, ongoing security challenges and the lack of job opportunities in Myanmar, voluntary repatriation is not yet feasible as a long-term solution. After more than 60 years of conflict and displacement, Myanmar is now in the midst of political reform. A new nominally civilian government and the promise of elections in 2015 have raised hopes of a lasting democratic transition after years of military rule. For the first time in decades, repatriation of refugees in Thailand is being discussed as a real and imminent possibility.



Chapter 1. Introduction: Background of Protracted Conflict and Displacement in Myanmar

After more than 60 years of conflict and displacement, Myanmar is now in the midst of political reform. A new nominally-civilian government and pledged elections in 2015 has raised hopes of a lasting democratic transition after decades of military rule. For the first time in decades, repatriation of refugees in Thailand is being discussed as a real and imminent possibility. This chapter introduces the current state of displacement along the Thai–Myanmar border, providing a background on the conflicts in Myanmar and other factors that have led to protracted displacement of several ethnic groups both within Myanmar and across state borders. The chapter sets the context for the rest of this book, which examines Myanmar as a post-conflict society and the reintegration processes that would need to occur to enable safe and voluntary return of persons displaced by the decades of conflict.
Supang Chantavanich, Aungkana Kamonpetch

Chapter 2. Sustainable Return: A Case Study of Refugee Return to Lao PDR in the 1980s–1990s

The possibility of repatriation has recently come under heavy discussion along the Thai–Myanmar border. The discourse around ‘sustainable return’ looks beyond long-term development and focuses on four kinds of insecurities (namely, physical insecurity, social and psychological insecurity, legal insecurity, and material insecurity). Repatriation and reintegration are thus viewed as a durable solution only when these aspects of displacement are addressed in an integrated and effective manner. Based on this framework of sustainable return, this chapter begins with a discussion on the standard of voluntary repatriation in accordance with international principles (including the principle of non-refoulement). It then outlines the conditions that induce voluntary repatriation using a case study on repatriation of Indochinese refugees from Thailand to Lao PDR and Cambodia in the 1980s. It describes the security conditions in which repatriation occurred, and highlights the challenges and successes of return in this context, including policies adopted by Lao PDR and the roles of UNHCR and the RTG.
Min Ma, Vongsa Chayavong

Chapter 3. Myanmar as a Post-conflict Society?

Given the background of conflict and displacement in Myanmar provided in Chap. 1, this chapter explores the concept of a ‘post-conflict society’ and provides a framework for examining whether Myanmar has shifted into a ‘post-conflict’ state. The chapter begins with a review of the literature on the necessary elements of peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction to achieve stability. It identifies three phases of ‘post-conflict’ transition namely, initial response, transformation, and fostering sustainability, concluding that Myanmar is currently in a ‘transformation’ phase with the potential of becoming a post-conflict society. Beyond the negotiation of ceasefires, the transition into a ‘post-conflict society’ requires the development of legitimate mechanisms of governance and participation, secure foundations of justice and reconciliation, and sustainable structures that improve social and economic well-being. The Myanmar government’s current efforts towards these aims have included attracting foreign investment and amending relevant laws, and establishing mechanisms for governance and participation through its three-phase peace plan. On the other hand, the government’s policies and supporting institutions for refugees and IDPs remain inadequate for supporting return. The authors discuss these ongoing challenges highlight key issues that have yet to be addressed in negotiations.
Lahpai Nang Sam Aung, Hkawn Ja Aung

Chapter 4. Challenges of Reintegration for Returnees in Myanmar

This chapter explores the various challenges of refugee and IDP reintegration in Myanmar, with a focus on security from armed conflict and land mines, access to livelihood opportunities, rights to citizenship, social welfare, and resource and land allocation. It discusses existing efforts by both government and non-state actors, and identifies gaps in policy and implementation. The authors argue that without a specific reintegration strategy backed by an adequate budget, displacement will continue to be a non-reality for Myanmar refugees and IDPs.
Nwe Ni Win Kyaw, Ni Ni Win

Chapter 5. Analysis and Conclusions on Voluntary Repatriation

Voluntary repatriation is often regarded as the most ideal of the three ‘durable solutions’ for displaced populations. However, as the preceding chapters suggest, conditions for voluntary repatriation are difficult to achieve given Myanmar’s complex conflict environment. This chapter begins with a discussion on Thailand and Myanmar’s interests in repatriation, especially given a recent shift of international support from along the Thai–Myanmar border to inside Myanmar and its implications for involuntary repatriation. The chapter then synthesizes the issues presented in the book and provides analysis on the possibility of repatriation to Myanmar. The authors conclude that given current ongoing security challenges and the dearth of economic livelihood opportunities in Myanmar, voluntary repatriation will need more commitments and regular consultation with all stakeholders, and more concrete preparations.
Supang Chantavanich, Aungkana Kamonpetch


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