BANGKOK, 16 October 2023 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has held discussions with the Royal Thai Government (RTG) on the situation of refugees and stateless people in the country during a three-day visit which concludes on Tuesday.
In line with Thailand’s longstanding tradition of providing humanitarian protection and assistance to people fleeing unrest and conflict, the High Commissioner advocated for the country to maintain open borders and observe the principle of non-refoulement.
Grandi visited the Tham Hin Temporary Shelter in Kanchanaburi Province, where he was welcomed by refugees from Myanmar who shared with him their experiences and hopes for the future.
Tham Hin is one of nine temporary shelters in which Thailand currently hosts 90,801 Myanmar refugees, mostly from the Karen and Karenni ethnic groups, some of whom have lived in exile for 30 years.
UNHCR, together with the RTG and the United States, launched a large-scale group resettlement initiative offering a chance for refugees like those in Tham Hin to rebuild their lives in third countries.
“The large-scale resettlement is a life-changing opportunity for these refugees,” Grandi said during his visit to Tham Hin. “However, not everyone will leave, and for those that remain it is crucial we continue working with the Thai government to expand refugee rights such as offering them access to work or education.”
The High Commissioner commended the RTG for its progress in formulating the National Screening Mechanism (NSM) for people in need of international protection.
Grandi reaffirmed UNHCR’s continued commitment to support the RTG to ensure the regulation’s alignment with international asylum principles and standards.
On the issue of statelessness, building on the pledges that Thailand made during the High-Level Segment on Statelessness in 2019 as well as its role in the Group of Friends of the #IBelong campaign, the High Commissioner encouraged Thailand to bolster action to resolve and reduce statelessness, including through the development of a national action plan.
“Thailand has always been dedicated to reducing and ending statelessness,” Grandi acknowledged. “Nevertheless, resources are crucial to translate political will into action. We will continue supporting Thailand to further stimulate changes to accelerate progress toward ending statelessness.”
Finally, Grandi had the opportunity to exchange views on how Thailand could further enhance the pledges made at the Global Refugee Forum (GRF) in 2019. He encouraged Thailand to play a prominent role during the upcoming 2023 GRF to foster regional and international cooperation to improve the assistance and solutions provided to forcibly displaced and stateless people.
The visit strengthened the longstanding relationship between the RTG and UNHCR to advance the protection of refugees, asylum-seekers, and stateless people in Thailand.
After concluding his engagements with the Senior Representative of the Thai Government on Monday, the High Commissioner will attend a High-Level Regional Meeting on Rohingya refugees on Tuesday 17 October.