FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM
Myanmar asylum seekers and refugees in Mae Sot, Thailand face arrest and extortion from police, states Fortify Rights – a regional human rights monitoring group. Mae Sot is located on the Thai-Myanmar border and has been home to asylum seekers and refugees that have fled from military violence and oppression in Myanmar for decades.
Several people from Myanmar told Fortify Rights that they had been arrested while seeking medical treatment in Mae Sot. “It was around 1 p.m. when we were stopped by the police. We were very near the clinic. We could even see the signboard of the clinic when we were stopped,” said Swe Zin, who was one of the 38 in Mae Sot interviewed by Fortify Rights. Thai police had arrested her and the taxi driver. She was questioned by police for three hours.
Swe Zin and others interviewed also stated that Thai police demanded money to avoid being placed in jail. Maung Maung, a doctor from Myanmar who provides assistance to clinics he established in Karen and Karenni states along the border, said that the Thai police raided his home in Mae Sot. The police detained him and confiscated his medicines and medical equipment. He was only released and had all of his belongings returned to him when he paid the police the equivalent of $1,000 USD in Thai baht (36,250 THB).
Myanmar asylum seekers and refugees in Thailand face possible arrest as many lack legal documentation, adds Fortify Rights. Their undocumented status also prevents them from accessing Thailand’s public hospitals and government health insurance plans that are available to migrant workers with legal status.
Fortify Rights demanded that the Thai government allow all refugees medical access as Thailand’s constitution ensures that everyone in the country has a right to healthcare. It also called on the authorities to prevent the arrests and extortion of asylum seekers and refugees. It requests the Thai government provide legal status to them.
“Refugees in Mae Sot are facing predatory practices at the hands of the local police, who act with absolute impunity. The actions of these officials and the lack of legal status for refugees in Thailand is putting lives at risk,” said Patrick Phongsathorn, Fortify Rights’ senior advocacy specialist.
There are 91,337 refugees from Myanmar registered at nine camps in Thailand, states the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Thai government has stated that at least 40,000 people from Myanmar have sought refuge in Thailand since the 2021 military coup. There are an estimated 6.8 million Myanmar nationals living and working in Thailand, the Media Intelligence Group claimed in its latest report.