Burma refugees: could reforms lead them home?


An ethnic Karen refugee holds a baby at Mae La camp on the Thai-Burma border. The camp, which houses ethnic minorities fleeing war in Burma, is among Southeast Asia's largest.



The buzz over Burma's reform era demands the question: when will the dysfunctional country improve so much that its staggering 1 million-large refugee population can return home?

This Associated Press piece, reported from one of the largest Thai-Burma refugee camps, seeks the answer.

It seems to be "not yet." This sentence in the AP report underscores a point sometimes lost in all the (well-founded) excitement over changes in Burma:

Most would be returning to border regions of razed villages, minefields, traumatized people and almost nonexistent support systems in a country that is already among the world's poorest.

It's also crucial to note that the reforms, largely evident in cities, have yet to touch war-ravaged jungles defended by armed ethnic rebels.

The refugees, eeking out a drab existence, will someday need to return to Burma. They can't live in UN-funded camps forever.

But should they risk returning now, investing hope in the army-supervised government's promise of peace?

Not yet.