50,000th Myanmar refugee leaves Thailand for new life in US, UN reports

Plu Reh sets off for the bus station on the first leg of his journey to Bangkok and then by plane to the United States

30 June 2009 – An ethnic Karenni schoolteacher is the 50,000th refugee from Myanmar sheltering in Thailand who has left to begin a new life in the United States, marking a milestone for the world’s largest resettlement operation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) announced today.

Since 1996, Plu Reh had been living in the Ban Mai Nai Soi camp – where he had taught primary school – in northern Thailand since 1996. Along with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, he left Bangkok this morning on a 28-hour journey that will ultimately take him to Camden, New Jersey.

Before departing, he “spoke optimistically to our staff about the opportunities in the United States for a good education for his daughter and for further education for himself and his wife,” UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler said.

Resettlement from the nine refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border began in 2004, but picked up pace in early 2005 when the US offered homes to the uprooted.

“For refugees around the world, return to their home country is usually the preferred option,” Mr. Spindler said.

But most of the Myanmar refugees, most of whom had been for over two decades in Thailand where they are not allowed to settle permanently, do not see any chance of returning to their home country.

“So for them, resettlement in a third country is the best option,” the UNHCR spokesperson said, expressing gratitude to countries such as the US, Canada, Australia, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden for offering refugees a chance to restart their lives.

Currently, 112,000 registered Myanmar refugees live in the nine camps, and the agency expects to resettle a further 6,000-7,000 this year.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Thailand: UN working to assist 2,000 recently-arrived Myanmar refugees

Related Stories


No related press releases
No related press briefing notes