BANGKOK – ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) calls on Thailand, ASEAN, and the wider international community to turn their attention to the plight of internally-displaced people (IDPs) and refugees at the Thai-Myanmar border and to support localized pathways, including cross-border aid.
During the four-day fact-finding mission from 13-16 November, parliamentarians from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand visited the border towns of Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang in Northern Thailand to speak with local organizations, displaced communities and first responders to hear about their situation and challenges as well as to consult with community-based organizations to better understand what solutions must be immediately advocated for.
“We are deeply concerned about the situation faced by IDPs and refugees from Myanmar at the Thai Border. They do not have sufficient access to healthcare, food, or even shelter. We can and must do more for them,” APHR Chair and member of the Indonesian House of Representatives Mercy Barends said today,
The mission delegation found that border clinics urgently need medicine and warm clothing for patients. Meanwhile, IDP and refugee children have severely limited access to education: schools have been targeted for airstrikes by the military junta, there is a lack of books and other learning materials, and those who wish to continue with higher education find it difficult to apply to universities abroad due to a lack of documentation.
“The growing IDP population near the Thai border – which is set to reach 300,000 due to continued junta airstrikes and military operations – relies heavily on local community-based organizations for support. But these organizations are continually blocked from accessing humanitarian aid by the illegal Myanmar junta,” APHR member and Malaysian member of parliament Kelvin Yii said. “APHR stands in solidarity with the community-based organizations and echoes their calls for increased cross-border aid.”
The challenges faced by refugees on the Thai side of the border are made worse by the precarity of their legal status – human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Thai border authorities for sending those seeking refuge back across the border to Myanmar, where they are at risk of indiscriminate airstrikes, arbitrary arrest, torture, and worse.
“We urge the Thai government 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,” said Yii.
APHR also highlights that the conditions of IDPs and refugees can only be genuinely resolved with a peaceful, democratic, and inclusive Myanmar.
“We therefore reiterate our calls to ASEAN and the international community to take firm action against the illegal Myanmar junta, including by suspending any military or diplomatic cooperation, and to recognize the National Unity Government as the legitimate representatives of the Myanmar people,” said Barends. “As long as the junta remains in power, the suffering of IDPs and refugees will only increase, leading to an unsafe Thai border as well as wider regional instability.”