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BP: HUMAN RIGHTS:Slump cited in vet
- Subject: BP: HUMAN RIGHTS:Slump cited in vet
- From: suriya@xxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 26 May 1998 06:16:00
May 26, 1998
Slump cited in
veto of refugee
More than two million jobless
Thailand has hardened its resolve not to join a UN convention
on refugees, citing the slump and the threat of high
"We are not a signatory to the convention but we have accepted
the principles since the 1970s," said one government official.
He pointed to the approximately one million Khmers, Laotians
and Vietnamese given first asylum in Thailand after communist
takeovers in those countries in 1975 and the prolonged conflict
in Cambodia since 1979.
"Our policy is to give people asylum from fighting. When peace
is regained, they should return to their country," said another
official close to refugee affairs.
"But we cannot accept as mandatory the matter of rights for
refugees. We cannot give them rights to employment or
education, especially not at this time."
Thailand, which expects the slump to leave two million Thais
unemployed, is faced with the problem of some 700,000 illegal
migrant workers, mainly from Burma.
The official was responding to a call from the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees that Thailand should join the 1951
convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967
The call came from Denis McNamara, head of the UNHCR's
International Protection Division, at a seminar that questioned the
universality of today's response to the refugee challenge during
this 50th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights in 1948.
Chulalongkorn University's law faculty co-hosted the seminar
that drew government and non-government representatives as
well as academics.
Deputy PM Bhichai Rattakul told the seminar that the Universal
Declaration defined a common view of liberty. He urged the
continuation of dialogue towards durable solutions regarding
refugees and human rights.
Mr McNamara said Asia, despite its positive traditions and
hospitality to refugees, had the fewest states that are party to
international refugee instruments.
Governments in the Philippines and Cambodia were the only
ones in Southeast Asia to have signed the 1951 convention,
which counts Beijing among its 136 worldwide signatories.
Besides describing the refugee convention as an "instrument
against impunity" for crimes against humanity, Mr McNamara
pointed to safeguards for states, for instance the convention's
allowance for governments to expel refugees where there are
reasonable grounds to regard them as a danger to the security of
The clauses on wage-earning employment of concern to Thailand
include one that requires refugees to be accorded "the most
favourable treatment accorded to nationals of a foreign country
in the same circumstances."
The convention exempts a refugee from restrictions imposed on
aliens for the protection of the national labour market if he or she
has lived in the country of residence for three years, or has a
spouse or child possessing the nationality of that country.
On education, Thai authorities allowed six years of primary
education in camps for Indochinese children during the 1970s
and 1980s. The 1951 convention asks for more, saying refugees
should be allowed treatment "not less favourable than that
accorded to aliens generally" with regard to education other than
that at elementary level.
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Last Modified: Tue, May 26, 1998