Election brings hope, fear for Myanmar refugees stuck in limbo

For refugees from Myanmar living in camps just across the border in Thailand, a landmark election in their homeland triggers mixed emotions - hope that a hated government will be defeated, and fear of the uncertain future such an upheaval might bring.

Reuters| Updated: Nov 03, 2015, 10:57 AM IST
Election brings hope, fear for Myanmar refugees stuck in limbo

MaeSot, Thailand: For refugees from Myanmar living in camps just across the border in Thailand, a landmark election in their homeland triggers mixed emotions - hope that a hated government will be defeated, and fear of the uncertain future such an upheaval might bring.

Ko Chit, 45, who lives in Mae La refugee camp, the largest of the nine camps that are home to around 110,000 people, is typical of those who spoke to Reuters.

He wants opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) to win the Nov. 8 poll, the country's first free and fair election in a generation, but worries that could result in being sent back to Myanmar when it remains unsafe.

"The situation is not yet stable and we cannot go back because of fighting and persecution," Ko Chit said. "If there is no non-governmental organisation to support us there, it would be better to stay in the camp."

For many who spoke to Reuters, the looming fear is that an NLD win will prompt Thailand to declare it is now safe for them to go back and shutter the camps.

Some residents have been living in the camps for 30 years. Nearly 80 percent are ethnic Karen from eastern Myanmar who fled armed conflict and often persecution at the hands of the Myanmar army during decades of military rule.