“The Thai government will help provide training in education and human resources development as well as improve their quality of life to prepare them to return to Burma so they can play constructive roles in their country,” a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
The issue was addressed on the sidelines of a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers.
Thailand's National Security Council Chief Thawil Pliensri said the issue was discussed with the prime minister in Bangkok.
“I cannot say when we will close down the camps, but we intend to do it,” Pliensri said.
Most refugees belong to ethnic groups like the Karen who have been in armed conflict with various Burmese governments over the years.
Refugee life can be harsh. Refugees cannot work or leave the camps, which, at present, are run with the aid of international agencies.
The “solution is not forcing people to go back to a country that is still dangerous,” said Kitty McKinsey, spokesperson for the United Nations Relief Agency in Bangkok. “What we would really like to see is that the returns are done in safety and dignity, and they absolutely have to be voluntary.”