Refugees embark on journey home

PHIL BARNES
Last updated 09:34 28/02/2013
Htain family
PHIL BARNES/FAIRFAX NZ
HEADING BACK TO BURMA: The Htain family, from back left, Kyi Win, Mimi, Htay Htay Win, Mwe Mwe, Hay Mann Tun and Khin Khin. Front from left, Kyi Tha, Wasooo, Pan Thera Pee.

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One of the first Burmese refugee families to settle in Nelson is making a return trip to their homeland after having been forced to live out of the country for the past 25 years.

The Htain family, who live on Waimea Rd, said as far as they knew, they were the first Nelson-based Burmese family to attempt to make a return trip to their homeland.

Kyi Win and Htay Htay Win Htain, along with four of their seven children and four grandchildren, flew to the Thai capital Bangkok last week on what they expected would be the first leg of a four-week return trip to Burma.

Kyi Win said they still had to apply for Burmese visas once they got to Bangkok but they were confident that with the recent loosening of the military regime's tight control in Burma, they would be granted visas.

The family left Burma in 1988 and lived in Thailand for 13 years, at first independently then in a refugee camp from 1996 to 2001.

Kyi Win said it was hard for them to get work in Thailand but they managed to earn enough to survive before they moved into the refugee camp.

They arrived in Nelson in 2001 and now have seven children, the oldest of whom lives in Canada.

He said they didn't know of anyone else who had made the return visit to Burma so they didn't know what to expect in terms of whether the authorities would give them any problems or whether they would be allowed complete freedom to move around and visit family and friends.

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