Thailand is a Buddhist country of 67 million people with a strong economy and, at times, a troubled constitutional democracy. Over the past three decades, its geography, politics and economy have caused it to play reluctant host to hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighboring countries.
Current Humanitarian Situation
Today, 140,000 Burmese of various ethnic groups reside in 9 refugee camps, termed “temporary shelters” despite their existence for nearly 30 years. Hundreds of thousands of other Burmese fleeing ethnic persecution and conflict, particularly the Shan, live as illegal migrants without access to refugee protection or assistance. Others, like the stateless, Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority, sometimes enter Thailand waters en route to Malaysia on precarious wooden boats, and are pushed back to sea or indefinitely detained, as they have no country which accepts them as its citizens. The Thai government permits UNHCR to facilitate the international resettlement of Burmese registered in camps, and to date, over 60,000 have been resettled, mainly to the United States. However, the government has given no indication of when it will be able to screen an additional 70,000 unregistered camp dwellers or assess the claims of thousands of other refugees who reside outside the camps, including 10,000 refugees who fled their homes in November 2010 and are now living in unofficial camps on the border with little assistance. Aid agencies like the Thailand Burma Border Consortium have been providing desperately needed cross-border humanitarian assistance to thousands of displaced people in the conflict-ridden areas of Burma, to which there is no access from inside. RI supports the continuation of this life saving assistance.