2 November 2023
Open Letter to the Government of Thailand on Refugees Fleeing Myanmar
Re: New Thai government has the opportunity for a fresh start on Myanmar Refugees
To: Royal Thai Government
H.E. Srettha Thavisin, Prime Minister
H.E. Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
H.E. Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior
Hon. Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Thailand
We, the undersigned civil society organizations, are writing to call upon the Pheu Thai government to ensure safe passage and access to humanitarian provisions for refugees fleeing violence and persecution in neighboring Myanmar. This would signal to the world that the new Thai government truly committed to respecting and upholding human rights.
As you know, the Myanmar military junta is committing ongoing war crimes and human rights violations against the civilian population, killing thousands and internally displacing 2 million people , according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. However, these numbers are likely much higher, based on data collected by local humanitarian organizations working on the ground in Myanmar. This is just the latest wave of civilian displacement resulting from the unprecedented violence and scorched-earth earth terror campaign by the Myanmar military as Thailand is well aware, having housed tens of thousands of Myanmar refugees in refugee camps for the past 40 years. We commend Thailand for its long history of providing shelter and humanitarian aid to refugees from across Southeast Asia, particularly from Myanmar.
The new Thai government has an opportunity to establish itself as a governing body that upholds the human rights of all people, including the many seeking safety, shelter, and protection in Myanmar. There is the possibility for meaningful engagement with pro-democracy forces and those truly committed to a free and fair future in the country. This is possible with the support of the new Thai government in choosing to stand on the right side of history.
We urge you to enact policies that ensure refugees are granted safe passage and humanitarian assistance, starting by instructing Thai border authorities to immediately halt the forced return of Myanmar refugees, in line with the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading Treatment or Punishment, of which Thailand is a state party, as well as Thailand’s own Act on the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance. Refugees living in the camps in Thailand must be given access to educational and economic opportunities that will allow them to thrive outside the camps in various capacities.
If your government enacts these policies, you will not only be acting with principled morality, and gaining the infinite gratitude of the Myanmar people, but you will also be raising the international community’s esteem and respect for Thailand as a democratic, humane, rights-respecting nation.