News / Asia

Human Rights Watch Urges Thailand to Reform Refugee Policy

A Thai soldier stands guard as refugees from Burma sit at the Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sot, waiting to go to refugee camps in Thailand, November 9, 2010.
A Thai soldier stands guard as refugees from Burma sit at the Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sot, waiting to go to refugee camps in Thailand, November 9, 2010.
Ron Corben
Human Rights Watch is calling for Thailand to reform its refugee policies in line with international conventions. Tens of thousands of Burmese refugees are living in camps inside Thailand.

HRW says Thailand’s refugee policies are often inconsistent, lack transparency and leave many vulnerable to abusive treatment. The independent group's report also says the policies are “not grounded in law.”  

Thailand has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and is without a refugee law or functioning asylum procedures. As a result, researchers say the countries takes an ‘ad hoc’ approach in determining policy.
 
Bill Frelick, Human Rights Watch Refugee program director, September 2012. (VOA - R. Corben)Bill Frelick, Human Rights Watch Refugee program director, September 2012. (VOA - R. Corben)
x
Bill Frelick, Human Rights Watch Refugee program director, September 2012. (VOA - R. Corben)
Bill Frelick, Human Rights Watch Refugee program director, September 2012. (VOA - R. Corben)
“People are not recognized as being refugees and having the right to work at the same time," said Bill Frelick, the rights group’s refugee program director. "So basically, every refugee - whether they are in a camp or whether they have been recognized in an urban environment by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for example, is forced to work illegally. So they are exposing themselves to arrest on the street, to bribes, to abuse.”


Thailand-Burma discussions

Thailand has long been considered a refuge for tens of thousands of those fleeing conflict from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. There remain more than 140,000 Burmese, mostly Karen, in nine camps along the Thai Burma border.
 
Recent political and economic reforms in Burma are raising the prospect of their return. There also reportedly are discussions between Thailand and Burma over industrial development programs inside Burma to open the way for a future resettlement.
 
Human Rights Watch is calling for the camps to be open and to allow those refugees to be retrained and develop skills before returning home. Frelick said this is an important moment.
 
“We actually, I think, are at a unique historical moment where after decades in which Thailand has basically associated refugees with camps. But the prospects for return are there, and for doing it correctly and for having proper rights respecting repatriation that will work there,” Frelick said.

Pushing for tougher approach
 
The report said the U.N. High Commission for Refugees needs to take a firmer stand on protecting the rights of refugees when dealing with the Thai Government and also wants the UNHCR to have full access to the refugee border camps.
 
The report calls for special attention to be paid to the Shan and Rohingya ethnic groups. The Rohingya do not have legal status under Burma’s citizenship laws and Human Rights Watch called for Burma’s government to “immediately recognize or grant citizenship” to them.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs