Fri 29 Apr 2005
Filed under: News,On The Border
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees urged Thai authorities to grant more freedom to Myanmar (Burmese) exiles and to improve their living conditions in border refugee camps, The Nation reports.
Since the end of March, thousands of Burmese exiles, waiting for asylum in third countries, have been transferred from urban areas into refugee camps in Ratchaburi, Kanchanaburi and Tak provinces, where they say living conditions are poor and their liberty is limited.
The UN high commissioner is seeking a meeting with relevant Thai authorities to raise concerns and request improvements at the camps, UNHCR spokesperson Kirsten Young said yesterday.
The UN has consistently asked Thai authorities to expand living space at the refugee camps, notably at Ratchaburi’s Tham Hin camp, which is now too crowded, she said.
One Burmese exile told The Nation that people taken to the camps were receiving insufficient food and clean water. They live in limited space and contact with the outside world is prohibited.
Young said the United Nations would urge the authorities in Thai land to rethink their attitude to the basic rights of refugees and exiles. They could contribute to Thai society if they had a certain degree of freedom of movement.
The UN agreed nearly two years ago with the government’s plan to transfer nearly 3,000 Burmese exiles from urban areas into refugee camps located along the border with Burma.
However, human rights activists have criticised the government for forcing the relocations as a favour to the Rangoon junta. They say the relocation has controlled the political activities of the exiles, many of whom are democracy advocates and journalists.
About 750 Burmese exiles failed to move to the camps by the deadline of March 31 and the government has threatened to treat them as illegal migrants and arrest, detain and deport them. It said they would not obtain exit clearances to enable them to resettle in third countries.
Young said the UNHCR would work out with the government how these instructions could be relaxed, and the exiles – even those who failed to move to the camps before the deadline – could continue the process of resettlement according to their rights.
She said the UN would protest if the Thai government insisted on refusing to grant exit clearances for the exiles.
However, Young said the UNHCR recommended that all the exiles should first comply with the government’s instructions in order to avoid further difficulties.