“Nothing About Us Without Us” is a short sharp documentary filmed at refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border. It highlights refugees' concerns about a possible forced repatriation from the camps back into Burma.

There are currently more than 140,000 refugees, mostly ethnic Karen, at the border camps on Thai soil. As Burma’s program of reform takes root in the psyches of foreign governments, investors and donors, more and more exile groups and NGOs are being asked to leave Thailand and return to their homeland. For many, this is a welcome move and something they may have been looking forward to for decades.

But for others, especially those ethnic peoples displaced by civil war who live at refugee camps, such a prospect is laced with fear—fear of landmines, fear of the Burmese army, fear their village has been destroyed or turned into a rubber plantation, fear of being relocated to a newly built settlement that is not their ancestral home.

The refugees do not feel part of the decision-making process, that the Thai and Burmese governments (perhaps also the Norwegian government) are making the chess moves and that they, the people, are the pawns.

Coming in for specific criticism is the UNHCR office, presumably in Bangkok, which is portrayed as out of step with the refugees’ feelings and unversed in the logistics of relocating thousands of unwilling ethnic people.

2012.12.11 Mizzima