Chittagong, Bangladesh: The Thai government should immediately end the detention under inhumane conditions of more than 1,700 ethnic Rohingya from Burma, New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on June 3.
Rohingya asylum seekers should be transferred from overcrowded cells in immigration detention centers to get screening and protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the HRW statement said after broadcasting of ITN Channel 4 News on May 31.
The ITN Channel 4 News had broadcasted on the air about shocking video footage of Rohingya locked up in an overcrowded immigration facility in Thailand’s Phang Nga province.
“Thailand should respect the basic rights of Rohingya ‘boat people’ and stop detaining them in horrific conditions,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“The government should immediately allow them to pursue their asylum claims with the UN refugee agency.”
Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution. While Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, under customary international law, the Thai government has an obligation of “non-refoulement” – not to return anyone to places where their life or freedom would be at risk.
UNHCR’s Guidelines on Applicable Criteria and Standards Relating to the Detention of Asylum Seekers reaffirms the basic human right to seek asylum and state that “[a]s a general rule, asylum seekers should not be detained.” The UNHCR Guidelines also note that detention should not be used as a punitive or disciplinary measure, and that detention should not be used as a means of discouraging refugees from applying for asylum.
“Thai authorities should provide temporary protection to Rohingya and scrap the ‘help on’ policy that places these asylum seekers in harm’s way,” Adams said.
“The government should help Rohingya who escape from oppression and hardship in Burma – not worsen their plight.”