UNHCR urges Thailand against forced returns to Myanmar

Press Releases, 28 December 2010

Geneva, Tuesday 28 December 2010

The UN refugee agency is concerned over the circumstances of the return of some 166 Myanmar nationals seeking temporary protection from Thailand on 25 December, urging the Royal Thai government to adhere to the internationally accepted principle of non-refoulement (which prohibits returns to a situation of danger).

On Christmas Day, the Thai authorities asked the group of recently displaced from Myanmar to return to their villages from the Wa Lay temporary site, located at the Pob Phra District in Tak Province.

The group which included 50 women and over 70 children informed UNHCR that they were not ready to return because of security concerns. Many among them had fled their villages of origin already more than once since early November 2010 when fighting erupted in these areas.

While strongly appreciating Thailand's continued policy to allow access to its territory for Myanmar nationals when fighting occurs, UNHCR appeals to the Royal Thai Government that returns should take place on a strictly voluntary basis, and only when conditions are in place to return in safety and dignity.

These conditions were not met on December 25 and in the past few weeks, UNHCR had already expressed its concern to the Royal Thai Government over the hasty manner in which some returns took place, where some persons returned home only to have to flee again when fighting resumed shortly afterwards.

While the majority of Myanmar nationals currently seeking temporary protection in Thailand express their wish to return their villages of origin when conditions permit, they should be allowed to make a free and fully informed decision when to do so.