On the Thai-Myanmar border, refugees who fled one of the world’s longest civil wars live in limbo, with alarmingly high suicide rates. As their options for resettlement narrow, some are beginning to return to Myanmar and the challenges of reintegration.
For an hour every night, a generator provides electricity to the refugee camp of Mae La Oon, home to some 10,000 refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border. Nay Kaw Htoo, a 21-year-old computer teacher, makes the most of the time to charge his phone and play music – particularly the songs of his hero, Bruno Mars. He’s got big dreams for when he leaves the refugee camp: He hopes to be a computer technician or a coder.
An estimated 100,000 refugees from eastern Myanmar have fled a 60-year civil war in Kayin State between the Burmese military and armed ethnic groups – one of the longest civil wars in the world. Many of them live in nine camps along the Thai-Myanmar border.
Nay Kaw Htoo has been waiting three years to be resettled in another country. But he has few available options. He arrived in Thailand after the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) stopped registering most refugees in the camps for resettlement at the start of 2014.
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