The Irrawaddy: ‘Help Burmese Refugee Migrants’ Plea to Thai Government


Two Thailand-based human rights groups have called on the Thai government to ease restrictions on migrants from Burma as a humanitarian response to the cyclone disaster there.

The Mekong Migration Network and Action Network for Migrants (Thailand) issued the call in a joint letter to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and the three ministries of the interior, labor and social development and human security.

The letter urged Thai authorities to stop the arrest and deportation of Burmese workers for immigration irregularities for a period of 12 months, the opening of a new temporary residence registration for all migrants followed by an emergency work permit registration, and a temporary policy allowing Burmese migrants to return home to visit their families affected by the cyclone and the right of return to Thailand.

The groups said such concessions “would be in the interests of the economy of Thailand and the economy of the Burmese people and would also contribute to the international humanitarian response to the effects of the cyclone.”

They also appealed to the Thai government to provide shelter, essential services and livelihoods to cyclone refugees crossing from Burma.

In addition, they also called on Thailand, as current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), to ensure that its Asean co-member, Burma, provides full immediate protection for cyclone survivors, including temporary shelter, food and medical care, followed by full reconstruction, permanent shelter, restoration of livelihoods and environmental rehabilitation.

“The people of Burma must be able to receive Asean and international assistance in the form of relief, experts and volunteers, and we call on the Thai government to monitor the distribution,” the groups’ appeal said.

A 200-strong “Emergency Rapid Assessment Team” of the Asean-UN-Myanmar Tripartite Core Group was to be deployed on Thursday to the Irrawaddy delta area after two days of intense briefing.

“We will begin with two advance teams being ferried by World Food Programme helicopters to the two main townships of Laputta and Pyapon”, said Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan.

They are expected to cover the entire cyclone-affected areas and compile first-hand information and raw data for a joint assessment report by mid July.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization and its partners set up a system on Wednesday to detect and report potential disease outbreaks in cyclone-affected areas. The “Early Warning Reporting System” is intended to support the Burmese Ministry of Health in providing rapid and accurate information on disease outbreaks.