Bangkok Post Friday June 20, 2008
TREATMENT OF REFUGEES
Thailand ranked as one of worst places
Thailand ranks as one of the world’s worst places for refugees due to its poor treatment of Burmese and Hmong asylum seekers and of the long-necked Padaung tribe, according to a survey released on World Refugee Day yesterday. Other countries listed among the worst places for refugees are Bangladesh, China, several European Union (EU) countries, India, Iraq, Kenya, Malaysia, Russia, and Sudan, according to a 18-page report conducted by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).
The ranking is based on a country’s treatment of refugees such as giving them the right to earn a livelihood, physical protection, access to the courts, and freedom of movement and residence in the country surveyed.
USCRI country director Dares Chusri said Thailand’s ranking fell from the previous survey, particularly in terms of refugee freedom and residence, due to the forced deportation of Burmese and Hmong asylum seekers and the Padaung tribe, who fled their homes in Burma to escape armed hostilities between government troops and ethnic rebels more than 15 years ago.
Thai authorities moved the long-necked Karen people from their present village in Mae Hong Son’s Muang district to a new holding centre in the same district last year.
Around 7,500 ethnic Hmong living at Ban Huay Nam Khao camp in Phetchabun province have been forced to relocate to a barbed-wire camp by the authorities, who have also started to repatriate many of them back to Laos.
The USCRI surveyed a total of 60 countries which together account for 90% of the refugees in the world.
Unlike the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), which has recognised an improvement in Thailand’s refugee policy, the USCRI viewed that refugee rights were still not well-protected here.
Last year, up to 22,000 refugees, mostly Karen, left Thailand to resettle in third countries.
The UNHCR has also recognised Thailand’s efforts to treat the refugees better with the issuance of identity cards and the inclusion of refugees in the national HIV/Aids prevention and treatment programme.
The UNHCR, however, shared NGO concerns that no major progress has been made in development of self-reliance, and access to the labour market and opportunities for higher education, which are still limited.
There are around 145,700 refugees camped along the Thai-Burmese border and some 50,000 outside the camps plus many hundred thousands of asylum seekers in the country.