Thailand: New Problems Challenge Old Solutions

September 30, 2009
Contacts: Sean Garcia & Maureen Lynch
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New Problems Challenge Old Solutions

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Burmese refugees have been living in Thailand for more than two decades. The situation is fluid: resettlement programs have provided tens of thousands of people with new lives, while a new wave of conflict in Burma is changing the political landscape and forcing thousands of new refugees to flee into Thailand.  While the Royal Thai Government should be commended for its willingness to host new arrivals, it must also respond to the fact that ongoing conflict in neighboring Burma will prevent refugees from going home anytime soon. To address the regional challenges of the conflict in Burma, the Thai government needs to implement a more progressive refugee policy and the U.S. and other donor governments must provide flexible funding for Burmese humanitarian assistance.

Policy Recommendations

    * Donor governments and the United Nations should commend Thailand for its generosity towards new Burmese refugees, and encourage the government to maintain this policy in the face of new displacements in the future.
    * The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, other donor governments and international agencies should actively engage the Thai government to ensure self-sustainability and freedom of movement for Burmese refugees presently residing in Thailand. 
    * The United States and other donor governments should maintain flexibility in their funding for Burmese humanitarian assistance to ensure that rapidly changing and evolving refugee needs can be met.
    * Humanitarian aid organizations in Burma and in Thailand should better coordinate their work in order to more fully provide for the needs of increasingly vulnerable people in conflict zones in Burma.

Sean Garcia and Maureen Lynch assessed the needs of Burmese refugees in Thailand in August 2009.

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