Thailand Policy Paper

Dear Congress[wo]man,

Congratulations on being elected to the [United States Senate/House of Representatives]! We look forward to the contributions you will make in Congress and wish you the best as you begin your first term. We hope this policy paper will be informative to you as you navigate policies and issues your office will take up.

Jubilee Campaign USA is a non-profit organization operating in Fairfax, Virginia that promotes the human rights and religious liberty of ethnic and religious minorities. We assist individuals and families seeking asylum in the West from religious based persecution as well as promote the care and well-being of larger groups of refugees fleeing religious and ethnic persecution. Jubilee Campaign also advocates for the release of prisoners of conscience and others denied their basic human rights of religion or belief. It’s a main priority of ours to promote and protect vulnerable women and children from bodily harm and sexual exploitation, paying particular attention to the scourge of human trafficking or modern slavery which we oppose however we can, wherever we find it, in all of its forms. We hope your office will not hesitate in reaching out to us if you ever need our assistance.

This policy paper serves to inform you of the current situation of refugees in Bangkok, Thailand. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has served Thailand for 41 years, meeting the needs of refugees from countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, and most recently a large number of refugees escaping religious discrimination and persecution in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Recent estimates have indicated that between 8,000 and 9,000 Pakistani Christians reside in Bangkok seeking asylum. The UNHCR in Bangkok has been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees, and further loaded due to shortages of staff and resources. This has resulted in a backlog of Refugee Status Determination (RSD) interviews, causing refugees to overstay their visas that they used to enter the country. This has left refugees vulnerable to arrest by Thai authorities, who have no obligation to aid and protect refugees despite the fact that these asylum seekers are registered and peacefully awaiting interviews.

Hundreds of refugees have been arrested and held at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC). The conditions of the prison are deplorable; each cell is overcrowded, sanitation is poor, and the drinking water is filthy. Children are held in cells with their mothers, and many mothers have reported that their children are suffering from vomiting and diarrhea due to the filthy conditions. There have been reports of at least three deaths that have occurred in the IDC in the past year, as health concerns are often ignored by the IDC’s officers.

Bail is occasionally offered for release; however, most refugees cannot afford it. Therefore, NGO’s and local ministries usually pay bail, with a priority of bailing out women, children, the elderly, and those with serious health conditions. If a refugee cannot make bail, his or her imprisonment is indefinite.

During the estimated 3-5 years that refugees are waiting to have their RSD interview and resettlement, the Thai government prohibits them from work, health care, and education. This is extremely detrimental to families with children, as children then fall behind in their studies and development. There are NGO’s trying to provide schooling for refugee children, but they are not legally recognized, lack teachers and volunteers, and are deficient of adequate schooling materials.

As Thailand is not a signatory of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Thailand has no international obligation to aid and protect refugees. However, Thailand is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which provides liberty and security of the person, in the form of protection from arbitrary arrest and detention. Thailand is also a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which states in Article 22.1, “States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure that a child who is seeking refugee status or who is considered a refugee in accordance with applicable international or domestic law and procedures shall, whether unaccompanied or accompanied by his or her parents or by any other person, receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance in the enjoyment of applicable rights set forth in the present Convention and in other international human rights or humanitarian instruments to which the said States are Parties.” The CRC also addresses child detention in Article 37, stating that imprisonment should only be used as “a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.”

We hope you will consider the following recommendations:

• Encourage the Thai government to become a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

• Strongly urge the Thai authorities to stop the arrest of refugees registered with the UNHCR, and immediately release the women, children, elderly, and poor in health currently detained.

• Encourage the Thai government to adopt alternatives to detention, for example regular police check-ins.

• Encourage the Thai government to adopt policies that allow refugees to integrate into society while they wait for their interviews with the UNHCR. This includes allowing the refugees access to work, health care, and education.

Thank you for your consideration of these recommendations, and we look forward to working with your office on this issue. Again, we congratulate you on being elected to office!