Asylum seekers walk towards trucks as Thai Immigration officials (not pictured) escort them to a court in Songkhla, southern Thailand in this March 2014 file photo. Thailand has come under fire from a leading rights group, which accuses the country of failing to protect people at risk of human rights violations in their own countries. (Photo by Tuwaedaniya Meringing/AFP)
With the world's fastest growing refugee crisis developing on its doorstep, Thailand must take concrete action to reverse its long-standing failure to offer protection to those most in need, Amnesty International says.
The rights group outlined in a report released on Sept. 28 what it called "gaping holes" in Thailand's refugee policies.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place describes a number of failures by the Thai government in policy and practice that have had a devastating impact on refugees both within the country and seeking safety there.
These include Thailand's long-standing practice of using its navy to repel boats carrying thousands of desperate Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshis; as well as its forcible return of refugees and asylum-seekers — such as North Koreans and ethnic Uyghur Muslims from China — to places where they at risk from torture and other serious human rights violations.
"With ethnic cleansing forcing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya out of Myanmar, Thailand urgently needs to set a regional example by adopting humane refugee policies. Instead of callously repelling people fleeing unimaginable horrors, the Thai government should ensure safe passage for those seeking international protection in Thailand," said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International's Director of Global Issues.
"Thailand hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the region, but its myopic, ad hoc policies mean it fails to offer them proper protection. The authorities cannot continue to lurch from one refugee crisis to the next; and instead must set up the systems required to offer these men, women and children who are at risk the safety and security they need," she said.