By Tossapol Boonpat
The refugees – who had fled fighting in Kayah state 27 years ago and had been living at the Ban Mai Nai Soi camp in Muang Mae Hong Son – returned home voluntarily.
They were sent across the border via the traders’ checkpoint in Ban Huai Ton Nun in Khun Yuam district.
They followed an initial group of 71 refugees repatriated in October 2016 and 73 others sent home via Tak on Monday.
Myanmar officials led by Colonel Myint Wai, Kayah state’s Minister of Security and Border Affairs, welcomed them back in a ceremony attended by Natapanu Nopakun of the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Department of International Organisations and representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Ban Mai Nai Soi refugee camp now holds about 8,000 people, down from a peak of more than 20,000. Many have found homes in third countries, while others returned to Myanmar.
A source at the camp said the latest group of 19 people should have numbered 29, but the others changed their mind following a report about Myanmar government light infantry being deployed to Kayah in mid-April.
The source claimed the same infantry battalion had pursued the Karenni National Progressive Army in 2005, with combat taking place just west Mae Hong Son.