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UNHCR Presses Thailand to Allow Employment for Burmese Refugees

The UN on Thursday called on Thai authorities to allow greater employment opportunities for Burmese refugees living in camps along the Thai-Burmese border. Erika Feller, the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection within the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand in Bangkok that Thai authorities should allow the estimated 140,000 Burmese refugees living in camps in Thailand to find employment along the border.

Allowing employment for camp refugees would, among other things, reduce their dependency on international aid organizations, Feller said.

Officials from the Karen Refugee Committee said that the group has heard about the recommendation but has no information on how that process might be implemented.Refugees living in the nine refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border are currently not allowed to leave or find employment outside the camps.

Thailand’s Department of Provincial Administration has begun issuing identity cards within the nine camps to an estimated 88,000 refugees in a project funded by a US $1 million grant from the UNHCR.

Feller said that the issuing of ID cards is not only an important protection tool but it also gives refugees “confidence to look at self-sufficiency options inside and outside the camp.”

Thai ID cards could also affect the numbers of refugees applying for resettlement to third countries. “Some people have said that if they can use their [ID] card to work outside the camps, they would not seek resettlement,” said Mi Sha, a school teacher in the Mae La camp.

Mae La, in Thailand’s Tak Province, is the largest of the nine refugee camps and has an estimated population of more than 40,000.

“It will be good if we have the right to work outside the camp, but that right should have limits,” said Pwey Doh, also a teacher in Mae La. “Otherwise, authorities would have no control over refugees.


By Shah Paung, The Irrawaddy  News
May 04, 2007

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MFA is a regional network of non-government organizations (NGOs), associations and trade unions of migrant workers, and individual advocates in Asia who are committed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

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