myanmar report

A Summary of the Situation and Recommendations: Humanitarian Relief and Addressing the problems of the people from Myanmar who have become Internally Displaced Person in Myanmar and Refugees in Thailand

A Summary of the Situation and Recommendations: Humanitarian Relief and Addressing the problems of the people from Myanmar[1] who have become Internally Displaced Person in Myanmar and Refugees[2] in Thailand

1. An overall figure of IDPs and the situation of refugees following the military coup in Myanmar

Armed conflicts in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Myanmar) and the Myanmar Army’s offensive operations in the areas under the control of various ethnic armed organizations following the 1 February 2021 military coup have instigated fear among a massive number of people over the possible persecution. As a result, they have fled and become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and later refugees in Thailand. According to the Myanmar Emergency Update as of 01 July 2021 by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), violence and instabilities in the conflict zones following the military coup have displaced more than 211,000 people in Myanmar. They are scattered in various places including Kachin State (around 10,200), Shan State (over 30,200), Chin State (around 10,000).[3] According to the Myanmar Humanitarian Update No.9 covering 24 June – 27 July 2021 by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), most of the IDPs, around 170,200, live in Karen State and Kayah State which border Thailand.[4] Of this number, nearly ten thousand have fled the persecution to the Thailand-Myanmar border and most of the IDPs in Karen State and Kayah State continue to live in the forests and are unable to return to their community. Most IDPs in Myanmar and refugees in Thailand are older persons, women and children. In addition, there are also various groups of people from Myanmar, many of whom are the younger generation who want to exercise their right to freedom of expression and to express themselves politically including their opposition to the military coup and the military regime who have sought an asylum in Thailand. All IDPs and refugees need protection and humanitarian relief to survive. They also need psycho-social support, education, medical treatment and legal advice.

2. The situation of IDPs in Myanmar and refugees along the Thai border: The case of Karen State

According to reports of the Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) in May 2021, during 27 March-1 April 2021 and 28-29 April 2021, the Myanmar Army has launched airstrikes several times in Karen State attacking the military bases of the Karen National Liberation Army. The attack has caused impact on a number of communities causing several casualties. There is also an unknown number of other casualties indirectly from the armed conflict and displacement including a near-term pregnant woman who died en route while seeking to deliver her baby in Thailand, and a disabled child who died while fleeing to Thailand. It has taken its toll on civilian houses, school and hospital buildings and their properties. Meanwhile, the ground-offensive and persecution related to the armed conflicts and incessant militarization of the Myanmar Army in Karen State have made people, mostly Karen, become IDPs. They have to live in the forests as they cannot return to their unsafe community.

During 27 March-1 April 2021 the Myanmar Army has started the airstrike by laying bombs and firing automatic machine guns to Der Pu Nu village and at least 14 others in three townships of Mutraw including Lu Thaw, Bu Tho and Dawelo causing 16 deaths among the villages and some severely injured persons. The Myanmar Army’s four jetfighters also flew along the Salween and fired bombs to another two villages. The incidence has terrified the villagers prompting some of them to flee from Mutraw’s city to Mae Nee Tha by the Salween River. Around 7,000 of them swam across the Salween into Thailand to seek refuge in Tambon Mae Sam Laep, Sob Moei District and Tambon Mae Kong, Mae Sariang District, Mae Hong Son. Later from 29-31 March 2021, more than 2,000 refugees were pushed back to Myanmar amidst the volatile situation as the. Myanmar Army continued their airstrike. Nevertheless, some refugees continued to live in different spots in the area under the control of local military ranger units in Mae Sariang District including around 500 older persons and children as they were exempted from the pushback. They were eventually pushed back to Myanmar the following week.

Following the KNLA’s attack of the Myanmar Army bases opposite to Tambon Mae Sam Laep on 27 April 2021, during 28-29 April 2021, the Myanmar Army has launched the air raid on two villages in Bu Tho and a village in Dakwe. In addition to the use of reconnaissance drones, mortar rounds were fired into Dakwe , residential area. The Myanmar forces also mobilizes from Hpapun to reclaim the Myanmar military bases opposite to Tambon Mae Sam Laep. As a result, on 27, villagers from Ratha, Mae Nee Tha, Au La Tha, Ei Tu Hta, Klo Pa, Koheklo and Dakwe have fled from the armed conflicts to Thailand again, around 3,112 of them. On 28, the Thai authorities started to push them back. But on 29, more people have crossed over to Thailand due to the continuing airstrike and ground offensive. Within one week since their arrivals, the refugees were gradually pushed back, one or two groups at a time, until all of them were gone.

Throughout May, there were around 193 clashes between the Karen and the Myanmar troops. In several townships of Mutraw, mortars were fired into the villages almost every day, altogether 98 times. 40 houses in Dewalo were set on fire including rice barn which provides the supplies for year-round. The Myanmar Army attempted to mobilize their troops through Karenni State. And if the Myanmar soldiers were not able to defeat the local Karen troops, they would fire mortars into the villagers to put indirect pressure on the Karen forces. Meanwhile, the Myanmar Army’s reconnaissance drones flew in the city and along the Salween almost every day causing fear and making the villagers dare not return to their homes. They did not even dare to light up fire during the night. Nevertheless, only around 300 villagers have crossed into Thailand since they knew they would eventually be pushed back. It was estimated that nearly 7,000 hid themselves in the forests and most of them continued to live by the Salween since if there was any airstrike, they would be able to cross to Thailand instantly.

June saw clashes between the Karen and the Myanmar forces intensely in various spots, 254 times in total. It caused two deaths and six injuries. The Myanmar soldiers fired 232 mortars into the villagers while they were planting rice. Looting happened along the route the solders moved by. They have also confiscated properties from the villagers. The Myanmar troops and their supporting units from the Border Guard Forces (BGF) (affiliated to the Myanmar Army) continued to mobilize in the area under the overlapped control of the Brigade 1 Doo Tha Htoo District, Kaw Thoo Lei. As they mobilized their forces into the inner area of the 5th Brigade, the Myanmar troops have captured local villagers and used them to lead the way to the inner area. If the villagers refused to comply, they would be beaten up. Nevertheless, some IDPs have already returned to live in their villages while others are hiding out in nearby areas getting prepared to grow their food. Some remain at the Thailand-Myanmar border since it is still not safe in their villages.

3. The situation of IDPs in Myanmar and refugees along the Thai border: The case of Kayah State

Kayah State or Karenni State is not big compared to other states in Eastern Myanmar. Abundant with forests, rivers and mineral resources, the state is home to only 300,000 people, mostly Karenni with also Karens and Kayan (Padaung). It borders Khun Yuam and Muang Districts of Mae Hong Son, and Shan State in the North and Karen State in the South (the Salween River). A local armed force has been formed to protect themselves.

In the middle of June 2021, the Karenni Civil Society Network has published a report summarizing the restive situation in Kayah State following the military coup, particularly after 21 May 2021. It reports that the Myanmar Army has been attacking the people in Kayah State almost every day, particularly in key townships of Karenni State including Demoso, Hpruso, Loikaw, Hpasawng and Bawlakhe. The Myanmar Army has used jetfighters, helicopters and mortars to attack the people, houses, schools, and chapels causing casualties among the villagers. In addition, the Myanmar soldiers and snipers shot dead anyone they set their sight on. According to an interview by phone of the Vice Chairperson of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) by Transboder News on 9 June 2021, several passersby were shot dead by the Myanmar troops, particularly in Demoso and area bordering Shan State.

The Karenni Civil Society Network has conducted a survey in Loikaw, the capital city of Karenni State and found 13,061 IDPs in nine temporary shelters in the forests. The 91 temporary shelters in Demoso house 55,265 IDPs whereas in Pekon where there are 15 temporary shelters, 30,000 IDOs are hosted. In Mesek (close to the Thai border), there are 1,000 IDPs and in Hpasawng (by the Salween River bordering Thailand), there are 4,000 IDPs. Bawlakhe hosts 300 IDPs

Over ten thousand of IDPs in Kayah State have fled from the persecution to live in the forests. They can neither return to their villagers nor flee to other area. The current situation is rather critical as their supplies have nearly depleted and given the more hardships during the rainy season. Their temporary shelters also face the attacks by the Myanmar soldiers causing them to relocate and separate from their family members. People are starving and have no choices since it is too risky to return home to collect their food. A lack of clean water has caused diarrhea. These IDPs hiding in the forests have no access to help, particularly for their health. Despite efforts by the humanitarian relief groups to reach out to them, it is highly risky since all the road access is under the control of the Myanmar Army and landmines have been planted on the roads. Sound of clashes and mortar firing can be heard sporadically. Some humanitarian volunteers have suffered from injuries and have even been killed during their mission, particularly along the route between Mobi and Demoso. In addition, the Myanmar Army has mobilized 2,000 more troops into the area, probably to launch an offensive against the Karen forces.

4. Help offered to IDPs in Karen State and Kayah State and refugees in Thailand-Myanmar border

As of 25 May 2021, according to KPSN, the airstrike, the firing of mortar rounds and other violence from the clashes and intensity between the Myanmar Army and KNLA have caused a move of the IDPs and refugees across the Thailand-Myanmar border in three townships including Lu Thaw, Bu Tho and Dawelo. These 70,738 people accounts for 90% of the total population of Mutraw at 80,000. According to OCHA, the attack by the Myanmar Army in Kayah State has become more violent since 21 May causing more than 103,500 IPDs. Meanwhile, according to the Karenni Civil Society Network, there are 107,084 IPDs or one fourth of the total population of Kayah State. Civil society, international organizations, and humanitarian organizations including KPSN, OCHA, the Karenni Civil Society Network and civil society from Thailand all concur that the IDPs in Myanmar urgently need humanitarian relief including for their sheltering, food, healthcare, access to clean drinking water and other sanitation. Nevertheless, it is still not possible to formally send in the help through the Thai border due to a lack of permission to travel in the area and other logistic problems.

Since the arrivals of refugees by the Salween River in Thailand, the Thai CSOs and other sectors have mobilized support to meet their basic demands and called on Thailand to offer a shelter to the refugees. We also urge the Thai authorities, particularly security forces to devolve their power and duties to civilian agencies with experience managing the refugees including the Ministry of Interior and to ensure access of international organizations, particularly the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Thai CSOs to support humanitarian work led by the state agencies. Nevertheless, the CSOs’ demand has garnered no response from the state and IDPs and refugees continue to face a human rights and humanitarian crisis.

The first influx of refugees affected by the initial airstrike during 27 March-1 April 2021 and who crossed the Salween River into Thailand were later pushed back by the Thai authorities even though the situation was not yet peaceful. Access by humanitarian agencies to the refugees was also hindered. Thailand’s action in this case stands contrary to the principle of non-refoulement principle according to the international customary law and breaches Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) to which Thailand is obliged to act in their compliance as state party. In addition, it violates the principle of voluntary return, even though the Thai authorities argue that the refugees have been informed and they have returned voluntarily since according to the UNHCR’s Voluntary Repatriation Handbook, voluntary repatriation shall include a return to one’s homeland safely, with dignity, voluntarily and with free will.

After repatriating the refugees, the Thai security forces have deployed personnel to block all accesses and installed barbed wire along the Salween River to prevent any new influx. Such act is a gross violation of international human rights laws and humanitarian principles. The Thai authorities argue that such operation has stemmed from its concern since the incoming refugees may cause an outbreak of Covid-19 and it may strain the relations with Myanmar. They also express their fear that the refugees will linger on in Thailand not dissimilar to the refugees in the existing nine temporary shelters. They, therefore, want to confine the shelters of the new refugees to the area under control of the Thai Army in order to push them back as soon as possible. Meanwhile, media, humanitarian organizations, international organizations, Thai people and Thai public agencies are denied access to them.

Response of the Thai security agencies toward the refugees has not changed from before. For example, the refugees who fled the airstrike during 28-29 April 2021 were permitted to stay in various temporary shelters in Mae Sariang District just for one or two days, after which they were pushed back. The Thai authorities would claim the armed conflicts have already subsided and there was no more airstrike in Karen State, although in reality, the situation was far from safe, and the refugees pleaded for staying in a safe refuge peacefully. In addition, the numbers of refugees as reported by the security agencies are often lower than the numbers tallied by local people. Such undercount affects the effort to determine an appropriate help and the assessment of violence in the real situation.

Similarly, the delivery of humanitarian relief to the refugees by CSOs met with difficulties. Local, national and international organizations are denied permission by the security agencies to have access to the temporary shelters. There are no clear guidelines regarding the delivery of help across the border, albeit such delivery has been allowed on a case-by-case basis, the procedure of which was ineffective and unsafe. For example, on 5 April 2021, the Royal Thai Army started to give permission to deliver the help by boat to IDPs at the Ei Tu Hta and other spots along the Salween River in Karen State. Mae Hong Son provincial authority also reopened the five checkpoints which had been closed since 1 November 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, they also require that the delivery of such donations has to be made via the Thai Red Cross Society’s chapter in Mae Hong Son and local chapters in Mae Sariang, Khun Yuam, and Pai Districts and they must be hand-delivered by military officers. Given the lack of public relations and a lack of clear messaging, people who want to bring in the donation including dried and fresh products are made confused. They have brought the supplies to the checkpoints, but the officials there did not accept them. In addition, it was later found that lots of such donations were left stranded at the local chapter of the Thai Red Cross Society in Mae Sariang District and other local chapters according to the requirement imposed by the security agencies. Local CSOs reflect on how the mechanisms were so redundant and failed to bring the supplies timely to the refugees. They have to load and unload the supplies several times making the delivery even more difficult. Eventually, all the delivery has to be made via the boat in the Salween River.

In addition, during 17, 20 and 22 April 2021, it was reported that the Myanmar troops stationed at the Dagwin base opposite to Ban Thatafang, Sob Moei District, fired shots at a civilian boat from Thailand at Ban Mae Sam Laep. The cargo boat was stopped for goods inspection, even though there had been no such practice prior to this. Three days later, there was another report of such shooting and this time, the shots were fired at a villager’s boat from Mae Sam Laep while carrying four officials from the Border Patrol Police Company 337. Meanwhile, the Myanmar jetfighters were continuously attacking the Karen soldiers who spread around the Dagwin base since 27 April 2021. Local Thai villagers in Ban Thatafang heard the clamoring noise of jetfighters, mortar rounds and machine guns and noted that the planes might have flown over the airspace of Ban Thatafang. Nevertheless, the Thai authorities did not retaliate the acts of the Myanmar troops. This has subjected the Thai security agencies to questions as far as their role to uphold the sovereignty is concerned as well as response to the humanitarian crisis faced by IDPs in Myanmar and refugees in Thailand.

Later on 19 May 2021, the Mae Hong Son Provincial Governor signed the order no. 1031/2021 appointing a taskforce to coordinate, care for and assist refugees from Myanmar, composed of representatives from give CSOs, UNHCR, public health agencies, military units, and administrative authorities. The mission of the taskforce and its action plan are, however, confined to address the need of the refugees who have already crossed into Thailand, but not the IDPs in Myanmar, even though the National Security Council has issued an informal order to help them as well. According to the minutes from the meeting of the taskforce to help war refugees along the Thailand-Myanmar border on 25 June 2021, the Thai army and concerned agencies were yet to approve the action plan proposed by the taskforce. And until now, Thailand has not determined a clear policy to offer such help. There is no clear and long-term guidelines for the delivery of supplies by CSOs to IDPs in Myanmar including food, medicine and other necessary items. It has so far been made through informal channels relying on connections among concerned people on both sides of the Salween River. Sometimes, bribes have been paid to local officials to facilitate the delivery of such help across to Myanmar.

At present, the Mae Hong Son Provincial Governor as Director of the Command Center of the Border between Thailand and Myanmar has signed an order to reopen a checkpoint in Tambon Mae Sam Laep, Sob Moei District being effective from 1 July 2021. As a result of the order, Thailand’s CSOs will be able to deliver such help to the IDPs through the checkpoint. The reopening of the checkpoints is an initial step in the right direction to ensure the delivery of humanitarian relief to people affected by the conflicts in Karen and Kayah States and other areas along the border between Myanmar and Thailand. Nevertheless, as long as no guidelines at the national and local levels are laid down as to how to deliver such relief to the IDPs and refugees, there seems to be no assurance that the delivery of such relief to Myanmar shall not be impeded as before. There is also a lack of clarity in terms of the response to the incoming refugees along the border based on the principle of non-refoulement and voluntary repatriation.

5. The situation of urban refugees

Since refugees from Myanmar are not allowed to stay safely in the temporary shelters along the Thailand-Myanmar border and due to their fear of arrest, refoulement and deportation, some refugees have managed to travel through natural routes to stay in major cities in Thailand including Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi and Bangkok. There, they have to face the same predicament like other groups of urban refugees including being vulnerable to arrest and detention since they have entered the country illegally. These refugees from Myanmar are also vulnerable to being deported to face the persecution which has prompted to leave in the first place. These refugees from Myanmar are often lumped together with undocumented migrant workers who flout the disease control and prevention measures, and no genuine effort has been made to consider the reason that prompts them to flee the persecution in the first place. Such reason has made them refugees trying to stay in the forests along the Thailand-Myanmar border.

According to the UNHCR, at present, Thailand is home to about 5,000 refugees and asylum seekers from 40 countries all over the world. In reality, the number of urban refugees could be much higher. In addition, the military coup in Myanmar in February has led to a new group of refugees including members of the public who want to exercise their right to freedom of expression and political thoughts, activists/CSOs, media, opposition politicians who are opposed to the military coup and dissenters to the military regime. They have fled from the arrest and the persecution and left Myanmar to take asylum in Thailand including the escape to Thailand of reporters from Democratic Voice of Burma in June 2021. But such refugees have no right to residence in Thailand.

It should be noted that the Thailand government has given its commitment to an international forum. In 2016, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha has pledged during the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees that Thailand would stop detain children in the Immigration Detention Center and would proceed to develop an effective National Screening Mechanism to differentiate refugees from migrants who are here because of economic reasons. He also pledged his support for the principle of non-refoulement. In addition, Thailand has endorsed the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, an international agreement on refugees during the UN General Assembly in December 2018.

During the first Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, the National Security Council Secretary-General Gen Somsak Roongsita, as the head of the Thai delegation, has given the following pledges to the international community during 16- 18 December 2019 as follows;

1. To work to ensure the recognition of educational certificates and documents issued by Thai authorities in order for them to continue their study in Myanmar

2. Providing employment opportunities for returnees in accordance with laws and regulations and relevant trainings prior to their return to Myanmar

3. Enhancing cooperation in the repatriation process of Myanmar displaced person

4. Development-led approach to help prepare receiving areas for Myanmar displaced persons and local communities

5. Enhancing capacity-building of officers involved in implementing the national screening system to differentiate between those in need of international protection and those seeking economic opportunities

6. Effective application of alternative to detention measures for children in need of international protection

7. Provision of access to age-appropriate health care for children in need of international protection in Thailand

8. To provide assistance under “Justice Care” programme to all victims including those in need of international protection residing in Thailand to have access to the criminal justice system without discrimination

The commitments given at the international forum has led to two concrete outcomes for refugees including;

1) On 21 January 2019, the development of the “Memorandum of Understanding on the Determination of Measures and Approaches Alternative to Detention of Children in Immigration Detention Centers” (ATD MOU) signed by seven agencies

2) On 25 December 2019, the Regulation of the Office of the Prime Minister on the Screening of Aliens who Enter into the Kingdom and are Unable to Return to the Country of Origin B.E. 2562 was issued and came into effective on 22 June 2020. It is part of the effort to develop the National Screening Mechanism. Even though Thailand is not a state party to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, the screening mechanism would ensure individuals in need of international protection are able to stay in Thailand temporarily and legally and it would ensure a more stable protection of refugees.

6. The need to offer help and benefit to the Thai government’s effort to manage refugees from Myanmar

The protracting political and armed conflicts in Myanmar since February 2021 until now has forced people from Myanmar to flee from violence and persecution and to seek refuge in Thailand at the border and urban areas. Still, they have not been allowed to live safely in Thailand. They can only seek temporary shelter to stay along the Myanmar border getting ready to cross into Thailand as soon as the conflicts start, or the bombs are dropped in their places. In addition, some Myanmar and ethnic Karen people have managed to seek refuge in urban area. They have to live in hiding fearing the arrest and deportation to face the same persecution. There have been reports of the arrests of reporters or migrant workers who have fled from Myanmar from time to time and CSOs have no convenient access to these people and to offer them humanitarian help. We cannot verify if these reports about the migrant workers are true or not. They could be people who have fled from the war and the military coup from Myanmar. Representatives of the CSOs urge the government to come up with policies to offer help to and manage the refugees based on human rights laws and humanitarian principles. Such implementation shall benefit Thailand as follows;

1. In order to ensure an effective prevention of the Covid-19 outbreak in Thailand, it is necessary to know the accurate number of refugees from Myanmar. This will enable us to conduct a proactive testing campaign and to offer help when anyone testing positive. It helps to the provision of accurate information about the standards of the government for the effective prevention of the outbreak.

2. It can prevent refugees from becoming of victims of human trafficking. Without any protection, they can fall prey to those who exploit the refugees, particularly children and women. This is particularly important since Thailand has been downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List according to the latest Trafficking in Persons (TIPs) report.

3. The positive image of Thailand in international forum: The Thai government has given its pledges at international forums on refugees including the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in 1996 and the Global Refugee Forum in 2019 on the management of refugees. There have also been recommendations from various countries on refugees during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Round One and Two including respect of non-refoulement, response to the need of protection among vulnerable populations, and access to asylum seeking procedure. By coming with measures to offer help to the refugees from Myanmar, the government can demonstrate how they make good on their promise and genuinely respect human rights. It can set an example for other ASEAN neighbors.

7. Recommendations for helping and the management of refugees

Representatives from CSOs have these recommendations for the Thai government in order to develop policies concerning the support and the management of refugees based on human rights law and humanitarian principle. The procedure should be made officially, transparently, with accountability to ensure the support and the management of refugees systematically in the short term, middle term and long term as follows;

1. Thailand should adhere to and comply with the principle of non-refoulement by taking into account that the overall situation and if it appears the conflict has yet ceased, Thailand shall not repatriate the refugees resorting to the same old excuse that the conflict has ended, even temporarily.

2. Instead of impeding, the state should facilitate efforts by the Thai civil society to deliver help to the IDPs in Myanmar and refugees in Thailand. This can enhance security in both areas in a long run, particularly among people living along the border to have been maintaining their social and cultural relations. It shall enable them to bring the relief through the checkpoints or through other informal networks.

3. Implement the five-point consensus agreed at the ASEAN’s Special Leaders Meeting on Myanmar on 24 April 2021, particularly on the fourth priority agenda for ASEAN to ensure delivery of humanitarian relief to Myanmar

4. Thailand should endorse the taskforce to help war refugees at the Thailand-Myanmar border and its action plan and should set up other taskforces to work with refugees in other areas along the border including the border area opposite to the area under the control of Bigrade 7 (Hpa-an) and Bigrade 6 (Du Pla Ya) and Karenni State

The taskforce should be composed of the following representatives;

1) CSOs with representatives from community organizations along the border, groups that monitor and offer help to IDPs and refugees, legal organizations, organizations which offer psychosocial support and representatives from the UNHCR at the local level

2) Agencies under the Ministry of Interior at the district and provincial levels to coordinate with local public health agencies to take the lead on disease control work and other humanitarian organizations with experience and financial support to offer help

Mission of the taskforce

The scope of duties should cover help provided to refugees in Thailand and IDPs in Myanmar and any action of the taskforce in Thailand should be made based on collaboration, heeding to input and recommendations from CSOs who represent local people along the border.

The taskforce’s duties should include;

(1) Assess and analyze the situation of violence, the prospect of the situation and the number of refugees

(2) Coordinate for contingent help as per (1) and develop plans for help including about food, water, sanitation, healthcare and sheltering

(3) Inventory the donation items and detail as well as the delivery of such items

5. Thailand must not deny am application for asylum by invoking the Covid-19 pandemic or by claiming the refugee’s voluntary repatriation. If the refugees enter along the Thailand-Myanmar border, Thailand should consider that all of them have the potential to be refugees based on a prima facie basis and ensure that they have access to protection. Their need for protection must not be denied, and they shall not be forcibly returned. Also, an effort should be made to prevent illegal entry into urban area and to enhance the prevention and control of Covid-19 nationwide.

In terms of the protection and management of refugees, security agencies should allow the refugees to stay in a designated shelter in Thailand based on humanitarian principle and human law until the situation gets peaceful. Agencies under the Ministry of Interior at the district and provincial levels should be responsible to coordinate with local public health agencies to work on disease control and collaborate with other humanitarian organizations with experience and financial support to offer help.

6. Thailand should give refugees the right to stay temporarily by issuing a cabinet resolution invoking Section 17 of the Immigration Act BE 2522 to allow all refugees to stay in Thailand legally.

7. Upon their arrest and prosecution, a refugee should have access to lawyer and to meet with their lawyer privately. They should be entitled to a bail with affordable surety and a person under custody must have the right to be visited by people they so desire.

8. Refugees from Myanmar should have access to the National Screening Mechanism and to apply for the status of “protected person” according to the Regulation of the Office of the Prime Minister on the Screening of Aliens who Enter into the Kingdom and are Unable to return to the Country of Origin B.E. 2562.

9. During the Covid-19 pandemic, an effort should be made to ensure access to disease screening, treatment and vaccination.

10. Thailand should offer help to ensure refugees can return to their country of origin voluntarily, when they are ready, and when it is genuinely safe. The decision to return any refugee, individually and collectively, to their country of origin must be made jointly with agencies concerned with the protection of refugees with collaboration with the taskforce. The decision should not be unilaterally made by the security agencies as before and human rights concern must be taken into account.

11. Thailand should disclose information concerning the help offered to refugees from Myanmar. The information must be made transparent, accessible and should not be distorted in terms of the number of refugees or the real help offered by the state. An effort should also be made to determine clear responsibility, policy and structure of agencies or groups of individuals involved with the response to the situation and to enhance the collaboration to offer help based on humanitarian and human rights principles.

References



[1] In this document, the term Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) refers to all people fleeing from persecution by the Myanmar Army who remain in Myanmar, and they shall be called “refugees” upon their crossing into Thailand.

[2]Hereafter, refugees mean people who are by de facto refugees as defined in the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees

[3] https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Myanmar%20emergency%20update%201%20July%202021.pdf (accessed on 2 August 2021)

[4] https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/OCHA%20Myanmar%20-%20Humanitarian%20Update%20No.9.pdf (accessed on 31 July 2021)

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