Official name: Kingdom of Thailand
Former name: Siam
Capital: Bangkok or Krungthep
Capital's Full Name: Krungthep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathatthiya Witsanukam Prasit
Estimated population: 62,354,402 (July 2002 est.)
Land Borders: Burma 1,800 km, Cambodia 803 km, Laos 1,754 km, Malaysia 506 km
UNHCR Global Report 2001: map of Thailand http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/publ/opendoc.pdf?tbl=PUBL&id=3dee2cdc0&page=publ
UNHCR Map: Myanmar-Thailand border http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/publ/opendoc.pdf?tbl=PUBL&id=4416887c0&page=publ
Forced migration in Thailand largely takes the form of foreign refugees seeking sanctuary in Thailand after fleeing conflict in its turbulent, neighbouring nations, primarily Cambodia, Laos, and Burma, but also as far afield as Vietnam and China, along with a smaller number from Malaysia.
Modern forced migration to Thailand began as early as the 1700s with Vietnamese fleeing religious repression, and later, French colonialism. The post-war era saw a sharp increase in refugee arrivals, not only in number, but also in diversity of source nations. This was a response to the dramatic political changes experienced throughout the region, due to the often-violent death of European colonialism in the wake of World War II.
The end of the wars in Indochina in the mid 1970s brought the next dramatic increase in refugee arrivals and with it the attention of the world. The international response to the Indochinese refugee crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s was massive; however, Thailand had to bear the vast majority of the refugee burden and was still left with a significant refugee problem when international interest began to die down later in the 1980s. This was the first time Thailand received international assistance for refugees, having previously dealt with the problem itself. From 1989, UNHCR acted as a facilitator once the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) for Indochinese refugees was introduced. Vietnamese refugees were the focus of the CPA, and 'pushbacks' of Vietnamese were no longer reported following this commitment.
Burmese refugees had been coming to Thailand since shortly after World War II. The Burmese arrival rate rose sharply during the 1980s and 1990s as a result of a crackdown on urban, pro-democracy supporters, as well as several government offensives against sundry ethnic minorities along the Thai border who opposed the government in various wars for self-determination. The Burmese refugee issue is currently the largest in Thailand. Over 100,000 refugees are living in border camps, with many more living in the Thai community. According to UNHCR, refugees along the Thai-Burma are recognized on a 'prima facie' basis in the absence of a Refugee Status Determination procedure in Thailand. A blurring between refugees and migrant workers complicates issues of refugee protection and resettlement. This is exacerbated by the very small role currently played by UNHCR relative to that which it fulfilled during the refugee crisis in the late 1970s. The repatriation of some 10,000 Mon refugees in 1996 was carried out without international criteria being met, and no UNHCR monitoring arrangements on the Burmese side of the border.
Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees or to its 1967 Protocol, but it has been a member of the UNHCR Executive Committee for the past twenty years. Since the post-war era Thailand has taken the stance that it was willing to provide temporary humanitarian sanctuary, but it was not willing to absorb large numbers of refugees by resettling them into the Thai community. The vast number of refugee arrivals has raised security concerns, something that has since featured in refugee policy-making.
Development-induced displacement in Thailand is largely caused by dam construction, and to a lesser extent, the construction of gas pipelines. Although in terms of the number of people affected it is a much smaller issue than foreign refugee arrivals, it has received much attention in the Thai community. Several development-related issues are hotly disputed by NGOs and the government.
- CIA World Factbook 2002: Thailand http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/th.html
- Library of Congress Country Studies: Thailand http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/thtoc.html
- Mahidol University: Thailand at a glance http://www.mahidol.ac.th/thailand/