Thailand: UNHCR encouraged by new administration's commitments on Myanmar camp conditions
Following the change in government in Thailand, UNHCR is encouraged by the priority given by the new administration to improving the lives of the 140,000 refugees living in nine camps along the country's border with Myanmar.
Last week, in a meeting with heads of UN agencies in Bangkok, new Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said his government's top priorities are national reconciliation and a solution to communal unrest in the south of the country.
We were pleased that he named as his third priority improving the living conditions and standards in the refugee camps, which are run by the Thai government and are home to refugees from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Prime Minister Surayud said he had long been sympathetic to refugees and that during his military career he had worked with refugees at both the Cambodian and Myanmar borders.
During his visit to Thailand at the end of August, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres won a commitment from the previous Thai administration to work towards granting greater freedom for education and employment outside the camps.
Prime Minister Surayud's comments encourage us to hope that the Thai government will now move ahead with issuing identity cards to all camp residents and will permit residents to move freely outside the camp to work legally. These steps would be in line with accepted standards and would also meet the genuine needs of Thailand's growing economy for a bigger workforce.