Thai camp returnees end long wait for a home of their own

A group of 17 refugees who returned from camps in Thailand in October began moving into low-cost housing in Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar Township this week, ending a wait of nearly two months for permanent accommodation.

The 17 returnees had been waiting since their arrival in Yangon on October 28 to move out of a shelter run by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement in Mayangone Township.

They moved into low-cost housing at the Shwe Lin Ban Industrial Zone on the morning of December 21 after negotiating an agreement to buy apartments by installment with the Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, U Win Myat Aye.

The 17 were among a first batch of 65 refugees to be repatriated voluntarily under a United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees pilot supported by the Myanmar and Thai governments.

Returnee U Aye Lwin said electricity and water were yet to be connected to the apartments.

“The township administrator said the electricity was being connected,” he told Frontier.

In late October, the returnees rejected a suggestion by the Yangon Region Minister for Rakhine Affairs, U Zaw Aye Maung, to buy apartments costing K9.8 million in the industrial zone by paying a 30 percent deposit and the balance over eight years.

Aye Lwin said an agreement to move into low-cost housing in the industrial zone was negotiated with Win Myat Aye about two weeks ago.

“The Union minister told us the government could not afford to give us the apartments and asked how much we could afford to pay and we said K1 million at first,” he told Frontier.

Aye Lwin said he had agreed to buy a fourth-floor unit for K9.8 million and had paid a deposit of K1 million. He said monthly repayments would depend on negotiations between Win Myat Aye and the Yangon regional government.

Another returnee, U Thant Zin Maung, said he had paid a K2.5 million deposit for a groundfloor unit and had agreed to pay another K1.5 million over the next six months.

The Yangon government has been providing the returnees with a daily allowance of K3,000 and Union government and Myanmar Red Cross Family were reported to have given each family a total of K400,000.

The other 48 returnees, who resettled in Kayin, Mon, Kachin and Rakhine states, are reported to have also had difficulty finding permanent accommodation, and some have lost contact with the authorities.

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