Thai Government’s decision to cease forced repatriation is a welcomed move yet there is concern regarding new refugee management

Following the demands from the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus on humanitarian aid for new refugees who arrived in Tha Song Yang district of Tak Province since early June, and the expression of concerns from the network of Thai non-governmental organizations regarding the increase in forced repatriation, restriction of humanitarian aid, access to education, and the lack of a clear, proper and up-to-date refugee management measures,

 
We, the network of Thai non-governmental organizations, welcome the decision of the government under the leadership of prime minister Abisit Vejchacheewa, to cease the repatriation, allow the refugee leader to meet the refugees and bring in drinking water as usual, and allow the students who were separated from their parents to go back studying in Mae La refugee camp, after they were called out by the local authorities.
 
However, the government has not yet responded to the demand for a solution for the new arrivals and the review of the existing policy not to accept new refugees in refugee camps.
 
After a month, over 3,500 refugees are still staying in temporary conditions - plastic tents, monasteries and under villager huts. The Thai military had once tried to move the people to Ban Mae Usu in the same district but eventually ceased action on the plan due to the information insisted by the UNHCR and NGOs that the area is not safe from the DKBA.
 
The current problem is, therefore, although it is accepted that the new arrivals will not be able to return home in the near future, or even near to their homes on the Burma side, the local authorities have not yet found a proper and safe place for them to stay, while the Thai government’s policy still insists on not accepting a group of new refugees into refugee camps.
 
We, the network of non-governmental organizations, have serious concerns over the barring of new refugees to enter a refugee camp, which will have impacts as follows:
 
1. The group of refugees have to live in bad conditions that affect their physical and mental health, which will contribute to a greater humanitarian crisis,
2. The current temporary shelters, although warmly welcomed by the local Karen villagers who are relatives, have effects on the local residents’ daily lives. For instance, the refugees staying in monasteries bar the locals from their usual religious practices, 
3. Time, human resources, and finances were and will be unnecessarily spent for finding a new location for temporary shelter, or to establish a new place with proper infrastructures,
4. There will be unnecessary negative impacts on environment, natural resources and local communities in setting a new temporary shelter,
5. Over a thousand refugee children (except the 50 persons who were allowed to study in the camp) have not had access to education for over a month until now. The fact that there is a possible and proper facility nearby in Mae La camp but the children are not given access means the state has failed to fulfill its obligation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
6. There will be unnecessary negative impact upon Thailand’s image regarding its human rights standing in the international arena.
 
Therefore, we, the network of non-governmental organizations demand the Thai government to:
 
1.      Give a permission to the local authorities to allow this particular group of new arrivals into the Mae La refugee camp urgently, as the camp has adequate capacity in terms of security, sheltering, education and health service structures and management and protection system under the Ministry of Interior,
2.      Review the existing policy of the National Security Council that has barred a group of new refugees from entering camps.
 
We truly believe the Thai government will stand firm in support of human rights and humanitarian standpoints as it has in the past.
 
Action Network for Migrants
The Peace Way Foundation
Friends Without Borders Foundation
Cross-Border News Agency

 

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