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Burmese Migrant Tsunami Victims Suffer Discrimination in Thailand


The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says at least 7000 registered tsunami-affected Burmese migrants and their families in southern Thailand are receiving help. But, it says many more unregistered Burmese migrants are receiving no assistance whatsoever.

The International Organization for Migration, the World Bank and several United Nations agencies recently conducted a mission to assess the impact of the tsunami on Burmese migrant workers in southern Thailand.

It finds the Thai government acknowledges at least 7000 registered migrants and their families have been affected by the disaster. However, it notes similar recognition is not given to many thousands of unregistered or illegal migrants.

An IOM spokeswoman, Jemini Pandya, says none of these unregistered migrants and their dependents are receiving help, despite the fact many have lost family members, their homes and their jobs.

"Initially, all tsunami survivors were assisted,” said Ms. Panday. “But, now Burmese workers are finding it much harder to access help, fearing arrest, deportation and discrimination. There have been some reports that some Burmese migrants who may have not been registered in Thailand may have actually been deported."

IOM says the 7000 Burmese migrants are among over 120,000 Burmese who have registered with the Thai authorities in four southern provinces. It says those affected by the tsunami had been working in fisheries, construction and tourism-all industries, which were devastated by the huge waves.

The mission team says a large-scale displacement of migrants took place after the tsunami. While some people returned to Burma, it says most have remained in Thailand.

Ms. Pandya says the team has come up with a series of steps to ease the plight of both registered and unregistered Burmese migrants.

"The assessment report has then recommended measures that allow all migrants to have access to basic humanitarian assistance without any fear of reprisal,” she added. “It also recommends that those registered migrants who have lost their documents in the disaster should be assisted and also provided with new documents and given access to services to which they are entitled to under Thai law."

Ms. Pandya says IOM was in contact with the Burmese government soon after the tsunami struck. But, she says the government did not request any international assistance for the tsunami victims.

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