Target: Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra
Goal: To end the Thai government’s policy of deporting refugees back to their country of origin.
The government of Thailand should immediately allow the UN refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), access to 73 ethnic Rohingya refugees who recently fled Burma. The Thai government currently plans to deport the 73 members of the ethnic Rohingya group back to Burma where they face persecution at the hands of the Burmese government. The Rohingya are members of a Muslim minority group that has lived in Burma for generations. Restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly as well as forced labor face the Rohingya minority in Burma. Recent violence against Muslim groups in Burma has led to an increased number of boats leaving Burma for friendlier shores. These Rohingya men, women and children deserve the right to seek asylum under international law after fleeing such harsh conditions in Burma.
The Thai government’s policy of deporting Rohingya should end. While the government has instituted a “help on” policy designed to help refugees get to their final destination, this has done little but put refugees at more risk. This policy requires the Thai navy to intercept any vessel that comes too close to the Thai coastline. Upon interception, officers are required to provide the vessel with food, water and other supplies with condition that the boats do not stop in Thailand. If the boat is deemed unsafe and confiscated, as was done in this case, the Thai immigration authorities step in to enforce deportation back to their homeland. In some reported cases however, the Thai authorities do not inspect the vessels thoroughly enough, often with deadly results. The Thai government must end their “help on” policy and allow UN officials to give aid and shelter to these Rohingya refugees.
Dear Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra,
The government of Thailand should immediately and indefinitely suspend its “help on” policy regarding immigrants and allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide aid and determine the status of refugees. While Thailand is not currently a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, under international law your government still has an obligation not to return citizens anywhere where their life or freedom is at risk.
By allowing the UNHCR to operate freely within your country, the Thai government can ensure the protection of the liberties of Rohingya citizens as well as any individual who comes to your shores seeking protection from persecution. Until the UNHCR is allowed to conduct its mission of refugee screening, the Thai government should stop its practice of forcibly returning refugees back to the country they fled.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Rene Ehrhardt via Flickr