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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More