Burmese Refugee Camps in Thailand

The sustainable realization of respect for human rights to all across the globe seems be a dream far from coming true. Despite the many efforts by nations and the UN to address human rights violation by some government regimes, the world is still witnessing continued cases of civil conflicts in some nations. For over ten years now, the Burma country has been markedly involved in a civil rights war, which has seen the fleeing of many Burmese to Thailand in fear of their life (Thomas, 2006)  According to UN reports, an estimated 140,000 Burmese refugees are currently being sheltered in nine separate camps situated a long the Burma-Thailand borders (McComb, 2009). This report shows that the actual number over refugees striving to flee into these overly congested camps is over half a million (Lam, 2009). Such have been closely attributed to aggressive military operations in Burma to crack down political insurgents, which has seen the destruction of nearly 3,000 ethnic minority villages (Lam, 2009).

However, the dream for these Burmese that life could be any better in Thailand has never seem to become true. Thailand government and the UNHR have received many criticisms over their failure the ensure respect for basic human rights for the Burmese refugees. The refugee camps are marked with poor living conditions such as lack of adequate food, poor sanitation and over congestion problems (Lam, 2009). There have been incidences of rape and violence instigated by Thailand government officials against the refugees. Another major problem facing the Burmese refuges in Thailand is that they have become objects of employment exploitation in the nation working hard jobs, low pay (typically 1 a day) and for long hours (Lam, 2009).
This essay is written in support of the thesis that Burmese refugees in Thailand face living conditions that neglect basic human needs due to the lack of support by the Thai government, the lack of resources by the UNHCR has and the increasing number of refugees entering the camps on a daily basis (McComb, 2009). The author also gives some background information into the underlying reasons behind the presence of Burmese refugees in Thailand.
First is background information about the Burmese refugees in Thailand. The history of Burma nation has been marked with constant incidences of conflict (Thomas, 2006). The nation got its independence from the British in 1948 before entering into an internal conflict struggle until in 1962 when a coup by the military saw the abolition of the nations constitution. The military led government served to suppress all forms of public demonstration. In 1988, the military government was overthrown and replaced by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) (Thomas, 2006). However, irrespective of this change, the military intensified their mission of suppressing demonstrations, a move which saw the killing of thousands of people with other fleeing for safety on the hills and border regions.
In the year 1990, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (later changed name to State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997) lost in a general election but its leadership never recognized the election result nor did it call for any parliament sessions. Military violence against the people particularly the ethnic minorities and insurgent groups continued with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the main opposition was put under home arrest (Aiken, 2006). A political negotiation between the SPDC and the NLD in 2002 saw the release of Aung San Suu Kyi among other political prisoners (Thomas, 2006). However, this sense off political freedom did not last for long as Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party were arrested and detained in 2003 (Thomas, 2006).

Although many agreements have been made between the ruling regime and insurgent groups, there are still some insurgent groups fighting democratic rights in the Burma nation. This has seen intensified military operations particularly on the ethnic minorities areas (Thomas, 2006). The humanitarian conflict in Burma has seen the death of many civilians and the fleeing of many others to Thailand. According to the American nation, an estimated 276,000 Burmese refugees are currently residing in Thailand. However, as per UN reports, those residing in the nine refugee camps along the Thailand Burma border is an approximated. 140,000. Some Burmese nationalists are serving as urban refugee in Thailand (Thomas, 2006).

Second is a discussion on the inhuman living conditions facing Burmese refugees in Thailand. The Burmese refugees in Thailand have been identified as living with much neglect of their basic human rights as well as needs. First, congestion in the camps is a major problem facing the people (McComb, 2009). Reports available have established that of the 140,000 Burmese refugees residing in the nine camps, an estimated 71,600 refugees are living in Mae Sot areas. Still, despite this large population, the availability of housing facilities is limited (McComb, 2009). The refugees are housed in crammed make shift wooden house whose capacity was meant to be less the half the current population. Such an overcrowded environment results into many problems such as competition for available resources and poor sanitation (McComb, 2009).

Poor living condition especially overcrowded which result into poor sanitation has been cited as a leading cause of frequent disease outbreaks in the refugee camps (Thomas, 2006). Common diseases include malaria and dengue fever. Tuberculosis is a leading cause of death among the refugees particular for victims of HIVAIDS (McComb, 2009). According to available statistical evidence, an estimated over 1,000 tuberculosis cases are reported annually from Mae Sot area camp alone. Just to be appreciated here is the fact that Burma nation has been among the nations with the highest HIVAIDS infection rate in the Southeast Asia (Lam. 2009). This makes the problem of tuberculosis a major threat to the sustainable existence of the Burmese refugees living in Thailand without reliable health care services.

Another problem is lack of sustainable food and health acre services (Aiken, 2006). In a strange land and with nothing at hand to rely on, it calls for external assistance to survive. Some non-governmental organizations have been serving in the camps providing basic humanitarian aid such as food and health care services. However, these services are not adequate given the large population residing in the camps. It has also been established that an estimated over half a million refugees are finding their way into Thailand-Burma border searching for humanitarian assistance (Lam, 2009). Despite all these, the Red Cross, which acted as the largest humanitarian aid provider to the refugees was ordered by the Burma government to close five of its operational field offices located along the Thailand-Burma border in 2006 (Thomas, 2006). This move serves only to compromise the reliability of humanitarian aid in the camps.

Failure by the UNHCR to provide for the protection of the refugee camps against external threats. The sole purpose for the existence of the UNHCR is to ensure the respect for human right by all. However, in the case of Burmese refugees in Thailand, this seems to be inadequate. Despite clear knowledge by the UN on the previous cruel and unacceptable practices of Thailand government, it does not seem to move fast in saving the horrific situation facing the Burmese refugees in Thailand nation (McGeown, 2007).

During the 1980s, Thailand pirates were implicated of committing unspeakable horror against a Vietnamese about. Here they used hammers and guns to massacre all the refugees who were in the bout regardless of their age or gender (Thomas, 2006). Another incidence is during the cold war when the Thailand government supported the Khmer Rouge, a regime that saw the death of over 2 million Cambodians. These and other incidences must be important in dictating effective responsive actions by the UNHCR to avoid increased loss of Burmese lives under the hands of the Thailand nation (Aung-Thwin, 2002).

The Burmese refugees are facing the problem of rape and sexual assaults. The conflict in Burma has received many criticisms against the rape cases perpetrated by the military on the people (Lam, 2009). However, the Burmese refugees in Thailand seem to be exposed to the same problem. Reports indicate many incidences of rape cases committed to the refugees by government officials (Lam, 2009). Such cases are also reported involving the refugees, a factor which as been closely attributed to overcrowding and poor living conditions in the camps. This reason has been closely attributed to the escalating HIVAIDS infections in the Burmese refugee families living in Thailand (Lam, 2009). The work of a government is to protect the people residing in the nation regardless of their social, economic or nationality of origin. Therefore, lack of governments dedication in protecting the human rights of the refugees is a major cause of sexual abuse against the Burmese refuges in Thailand.

Acts of violence against Burmese by Thailand government officials as well as the public is another problem (Thomas, 2006). There have been many reported incidences of violence against the Burmese refugees in Thailand. One of these actions is that government officials have been claimed to been forcing the refugees to return to their nation. The sole aim of accommodating refugees from a war torn nation is to safe life, improve the humanitarian conditions and engaging their source nation in overseeing the realization of sustainable peace and harmony (Aung-Thwin, 2002). Still, respect for human rights dictates for having and imposing hate crime rules to safeguard the cultural, racial and nationality of origin in the nation. Based on this reasoning, it is illogical for the Thailand government to start forcing Burmese refugees back to their otherwise war torn nation without taking into consideration their safety (Aung-Thwin, 2002).

The process of realizing economic stability dictates for having reliable source of income. However, given the poor policies in Thailand, the Burmese are not able to get jobs to sustain their families. In a just and fair government system, respect for human rights must be given first priority. As it has been rightly claimed, economic independence is the best tool for ensuring a sustainable social and economic society (Thomas, 2006). Nevertheless, despite the many years the Burmese refugees have been staying in the camps, the Thailand nation has never implemented an employment policy for them (Lam, 2009). This has the direct result of putting the refugees to poor employment practices as they do not enjoy protection from the provisions of the nations labor laws.

Burmese refugees have fallen victims of employment exploitation in Thailand. The refugees who happen to get a job are usually poorly paid. It has been established that most investors of Thailand are seriously engaging in exploiting illegal immigrants fleeing conflict in Burma by forcing them to do poor jobs and under poor working conditions (McComb, 2009). Most of refugees from Burma find employment in the nations construction sector with no safety measures put in place. In addition to this they are required to live on the construction sites on make shift metal and plastic house which mainly lack or have limited electricity as well as reliable supply to clean water (Lam, 2009).

The Burmese refugees in Thailand have been facing the problem of been overworked and poorly paid. According to available statistics, the refugees are usually forced to work for 10 hours a day to get a pay of 1 (Lam, 2009). This means that a single family is living below the one dollar mark a day. Since the families are housed in the construction sites, it has been established that family member are forced into work by as early as 15 years of age. This practice is not only a negation of the human dignity but a major violation of anti-child abuse laws as dictated for by the international law.

According to the CCN reporting, Thailand police have been identified victimizing refugees seeking to enter into Thailand. This is evident from photography taken by tourists who witnessed Thailand military troops abusing refugees fleeing from Burma by a bout near Thailands southern shores. According to the tourists, they evident Thailand whipping people on a bout in the Similan Island (McComb, 2009). CCN reported to have confirmed this claims to be true from a Thailand military who said that they are currently practicing a damp to sea policy to discourage Burmese refugees from coming to the nation.

This damp to the sea policy involves the towing of bouts carrying Burmese refugees back to the sea waters without even supplying them with either food or drinking water (Aung-Thwin, 2002). Still claimed is that the bouts used are not technically worthy for use, a factor which compromises the survival chances of the victims. This report has proved the humanitarian crisis the Burmese refugees fleeing to Thailand (Aung-Thwin, 2002). Such a practice can never equated as being less than an act of mass killings of the Burmese refugees by the Thailand government.

However, most of these inhuman practices by the Thailand government can be seen as a dictate by the Burmese government not to allow Burmese refugees into Thailand. It has been established that Thailand and the Burmese government enjoy a very strong business relationship. Myanmar or Burmese nation is a major source of jade, timber and precious minerals at a low cost following command by the general (Aug-Twin, 2002). Just to emphasis the this strong relationship and its implication in the inhuman treatment of Burmese refugees by the Thailand government, when other nations of the world condemned Burmese governments ignorance after cyclone Nargis caused horror to almost half of the nations, the Thailand nation was in support of the Myanmar governance (Lam, 2009).

Still, there is the question of discrimination in the way the Thailand government treat the refugees. According to available statistics, there are both camp Burmese refugees and urban Burmese refugees residing in Thailand. Burmese refugees residing on the camps are mainly comprised of the Karen and Karenni ethnic minority groups in Burma (Thomas, 2006). Just to be appreciated is that this is the refugee group that has fled from Burma due to increased conflict between the Burmese government and insurgents as well as escalating human rights abuse by the Burmese army (Thomas, 2006). Despite the genuineness of these refugees, they do not enjoy employment rights as opposed to the urban group which is mainly comprised of Burmese political dissidents and few ethnic minorities who made it to Bangkok.

Nevertheless, the high population flowing into the Thailand nation fleeing for security is a major concern that threatens the occurrence of a humanitarian in Thailand. Although some refugees from Burma have been relocated to other nations like the United States of America, the population is indeed too high for the Thailand nation to sustain (Lam, 2009). With more than over half a million refugees to support, the nation will no doubt have its resources highly strained. Therefore, the international community should be blamed in part for the poor conditions the Burmese refugees are leading in Thailand. This is because the international community should be more devoted in seeking for sustainable peace in the Burma nation.

Another quite important problem facing Burmese refugees in Thailand is the question of the hope for a sustainable future (McComb, 2009). Education in the modern society is a key determinant towards the realization of a sustainable social and economic future in any community. The Burmese refugees are no doubt missing education, a move that will only serve to compromise the future stand of the Burma nation in it post conflict era (Aiken, 2006). It has been evidently claimed that most children start working at the age of 15 years in construction companies while those at young ages are left at home looking after the young babies. This practice is against the UN provisions for promoting literacy to all members in the global community regardless of their social-economic status.

The author makes some recommendation for resolving the humanitarian crisis affecting the Burmese refugees in Thailand. None of the worlds economies can claim that fairness and justice is being done to the Burmese refugees in Thailand (Thomas, 2006). According to some political analysts, the long standing conflict in Burma has been influenced by the nations massive natural resources which nations stand to benefit from by not condemning the conflict. A good example is the Thailand and Chinese governments whose have been identified as maintaining a strong business relationship with Burma. Therefore, business should not compromise the respect nations should have for human rights (McGeown, 2007).

Another recommendation is that the United Nations must engage its international power influence to ensure justice is done to the Burmese refugees in Thailand. By not providing security to the refugees whose lives have been put at stake by both their government and the Thailand government, then the value of UNHCR as being responsible for ensuring respect for human right across the globe diminishes.

All nations must unit in addressing the military conflict in Burma which has led to the death of many while displace thousands others. Such practices like imposing unified economic sanctions can sufficient serve to pressurize ending of the over twelve years of conflict in the nation (Aiken, 2006). However, in addressing the immediate problems affecting Burmese refugees in Thailand, nations should exercise their moral principles of care to contribute substantially towards the provision of better services to the refugees. Such could also include governments accepting to relocate some of the refugees in their nations as a way of evading the eminent humanitarian crisis threatening them in Thailand.

In conclusion, it has been clearly established that Burmese refugees in Thailand are indeed faced with serious humanitarian crisis. They are affected by problems like, congested camps, unreliable availability of basic services like food and health care and employment exploitative practices. Of serious concern is the claim that Thailand troops are drowning refugees, an expression of the nations failure to respect the human dignity of the Burmese people.

The UNHCR on the other side has proved quite reluctant in addressing the humanitarian crisis facing Burmese refugees in Thailand, by failing to provide extra security to the camps. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that, Burmese refugees in Thailand face living conditions that neglect basic human needs due to the lack of support by the Thai government, the lack of resources by the UNHCR has and the increasing number of refugees entering the camps on a daily basis.


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