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Refugees are ‘still suffering’
Although Thailand has not ratified the Convention on the Status of Refugees, the Thai government still needs to provide basic rights such as access to bail and better shelter for refugees, according to a panel discussion yesterday on World Refugee Day.
Although 96 Pakistani refugees received bail on June 6 with assistance from the Refugee Freedom Fund, 200 of them remain at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Bangkok’s Suan Phlu area.
Speaking at the forum, National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara said his commission had found likely human right violations at the IDC including arrest patterns and detention conditions, which he characterised as crowded and unhealthy, especially for children and women.
Thailand should avoid exposing refugees and displaced people to environments in which their basic human rights can easily be violated, Mr Niran said.
He called on Thai authorities to build a new refugee-friendly shelter outside the IDC. Dr Niran also called for interim measures that the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) could employ to screen these refugees.
The UNHCR said it was concerned about the arrests of Ahmadiyya and Sri Lankan asylum seekers in Pathum Thani, Ayutthaya and Bangkok.
“We have long believed that refugees should not be locked up simply for being refugees,” said Jean-Noel Wetterwald, the Bangkok-based UNHCR’s Regional Representative and Coordinator for Southeast Asia.
Thailand, like many Asian countries, does not have a national asylum system.
All foreigners who enter or live in Thailand without proper documentation are subject to arrest, prosecution, detention and deportation under immigration laws, even if they are registered with UNHCR as asylum-seekers or refugees.
Veerawit Tianchainan, director of the Thai Committee for Refugees, said the recently formed Refugee Freedom Fund, established a good foundation for assisting the remaining 200 Pakistani detainees and asylum seekers when it recently posted bail for 96 Ahmadiyya.