[MMN/ANM Open letter] Pushing boatpeople into international waters is inconsistent with international humanitarian principles
Mr. Wanchat Wongchaichana
23 January 2009
Dear Honorable Governor,
Action Network for Migrants (Thailand) and the Mekong Migration Network are extremely concerned about your recent statement advocating a further tightening of entry into Thai sovereign waters to prevent Rohingya boat people from landing on Thai soil (ผู้ว่าฯ ระนองลั่นจะผลักดันไม่ให้ ‘โรฮิงยา’ ขึ้นฝั่งเป็นอันขาดโดยใช้ ‘หลักมนุษยธรรม’!? in Prachatai, 20 January 2009, also quoted in Komchadkuak, 20 January 2009).
In the same comment, we noted that you referred to Thailand’s commitment to adhere to established “international humanitarian principles”.As you may be aware, the Australian government implemented a similar “turning back the boats” policy, which resulted in deplorable consequences for the concerned boat people. (See, for example “A Just Australia”
http://www.ajustaustralia.com/informationandresources_campaignkits.php?act=campaign_kits&id=36). It seems clear that turning away people on poorly equipped boats is completely inconsistent with humanitarian principles and your obligations under international law.
Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is party, states one’s right to life. Section 32 of the Thai constitution re-affrims this principle, stating that “A person shall enjoy the right and liberty in his life and person. A torture, brutal act or punishment by a cruel or inhumane means shall not be made”.
Furthermore, Chapter V of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), to which Thailand has also ratified, confirms your general obligation to assist those in distress and to ensure that all ships are sufficiently and efficiently manned from a safety point of view. . We remind you that forcing Rohingya boat people back into the high seas in unsafe vessels is an infringement of this principle which applies to all ships on all voyages.
As we have explained in an attached letter addressed to the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dated 20th of January 2009, the Action Network for Migrants and the Mekong Migration Network urge all Thai authorities to protect the security, safety and well being of the Rohingya who are seeking safety and refuge on Thai soil. We urge your respectful authorities not to turn these people back into the high seas but to treat them with dignity and provide them with necessary facilities and support needed for survival in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other relevant support groups in accordance with international humanitarian standards.
We look forward to your urgent action on this matter.
Action Network for Migrants (Thailand)
Mekong Migration Network
1. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva
2. The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
3. Ministry of Interior
Thai version (PDF136KB)