Changes in Burma – FAQ
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Changes in Burma – FAQ

What has happened recently in Burma?
On 12 January 2012, Burmese authorities signed a ceasefire agreement with the Karen National Union, a rebel group. Additionally, the government announced on the same day that 651 prisoners would be freed. The majority of these prisoners were political detainees who had been put in prison by the Burmese military.

Now that things are getting better in Burma, what will happen to people in the refugee camps?
While the ceasefire and release of political detainees are steps in the right direction for Burma, the situation there is still volatile and there are still a great deal further to go before all Burmese people can lead peaceful lives. The people in the refugee camps will stay there until it is safe for them to return. Some of them might not want to return to Burma, in which case they would need to apply to the Thai government for permission to stay in Thailand.

How quickly will everything change for the Burmese people?
It is difficult to tell at this stage, though it is likely that change for Burma will not come quickly. Recent events there have occurred only after a long series of campaigns by people and groups fighting for democracy.

Will everybody in the camps go back to Burma?
Some of the refugees may choose not to return to Burma. In many cases, their homes and villages have been burned down and no longer exist. The refugee camps have been operating for nearly 27 years now and some people have never experienced life outside them. Thailand will decide what happens to the ten refugee camps that have been set up on its border with Burma, so the fate of the refugees who do not return to Burma is in the hands of the Thai government.

How will the MAE Foundation continue to operate if there are no refugee camps?
While there are still children in the camps, the MAE Foundation will continue to provide musical instruments and lessons there. If the refugees all leave and the camps close down, the MAE Foundation will set up schools in both Burma and Thailand to continue its work with young people.

Further reading:
Thai Border Consortium
BBC News
The Guardian Newspaper