CSO campaigns to amend Thai immigration law to assist Rohingyas and other refugees

A Thai civil society organisation has started a campaign to amend Thailand’s immigration law to grant temporary shelter for Rohingya refugees and other asylum seekers.

Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation (TCR), a Thailand based CSO established to assist refugees and asylum seekers, opened a page on Change.org in order to collect names for a campaign called ‘Treat Them (asylum seekers) like Tourists’ to amend the Kingdom’s 1979 Immigration Act.

The top objective of the campaign is to convince the Thai government to allow refugees to stay in the country for a year by issuing them a refugee visa before resettlement in third countries that will accept them.

TCR hope to collect at least 5,000 names before submitting a letter to the government. The organisation will publicise the progress of the campaign on International Refugee Day on 20 June.    

According to TCR, although thousands of refugees and asylum seekers enter Thailand legally and illegally each year, the nation’s Immigration Act does not recognise refugees. Therefore, the state does not provide any formal recognition or service for them.

Veerawit Tianchainan, the founder and executive director of TCR, pointed out that refugees can only enter Thailand with tourist visas and have to stay illegally when their tourist visas expire.

He told Prachatai that, besides the Rohingya, there are thousands of other refugees who fled war, persecution and poverty who are awaiting resettlement in third countries and have to stay illegally in Thailand with the fear of being arrested by the Thai authorities.

TCR urged the Thai government to consult with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in order to find solutions to assist refugees awaiting resettlement.

Thailand is one of the signatory states of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. However, the kingdom has not ratified the convention, which means that it has no legal obligation to recognise or assist refugees.