Incoming Thai government must enact refugee-friendly policies, Southeast Asian MPs say


Incoming Thai government must enact refugee-friendly policies, Southeast Asian MPs say

JAKARTA – The incoming Thai government must heed calls from civil society to reform policies on refugees to be more compassionate and in line with international human rights standards, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said today.

We support calls made by the Karen Peace Support Network and other locally-led civil society groups regarding Thailand’s policies on refugees and asylum seekers,” said APHR Chair and member of Indonesia’s House of Representatives Mercy Barends. “The incoming government must respond to the needs of refugees, uphold their human rights, and guarantee their safety.”

According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are over 90,000 Myanmar refugees living in nine recognized refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. Refugees, some of whom have been stuck in limbo for years, are strictly confined behind fences and barred from seeking employment in Thailand. According to the Karen Peace Support Network, the current food ration is valued at approximately 300 THB or 10 USD per month.

Meanwhile, human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Thai border authorities for sending those seeking refuge back across the border to Myanmar, where they are at risk of indiscriminate airstrikes, arbitrary arrest, torture, and worse.

In the most recent high-profile case in April this year, Thai immigration authorities detained three members of a Myanmar opposition group that had crossed into Thailand to seek medical treatment and then handed them over to the Myanmar junta-allied Border Guard Forces (BGF).  Witnesses say that BGF troops shot at the men after the handover. According to media reports, at least one of the men was killed, while the fates of the other two remain unclear.

The incoming Thai government must recognize that the junta’s treatment of refugees cannot continue. The new government must grant Myanmar asylum-seekers safe passage through the border and guarantee their access to humanitarian assistance. Refugees living in the camps in Thailand must be given access to educational and economic opportunities that will allow them to thrive outside the camps in various capacities,”  said Barends. 

Adding to the suffering of those who have already been forced from their homes by a murderous junta is unconscionable; any administration that claims to represent change must start by immediately remedying this untenable situation,” said Barends.

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ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) was founded in June 2013 with the objective of promoting democracy and human rights across Southeast Asia. Our founding members include many of the region's most progressive Members of Parliament (MPs), with a proven track record of human rights advocacy work.

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