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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid