How Thai Civil Society Organizations Are Working Together to Advance Refugee Rights

How do you advance refugee rights in a country that does not yet recognize refugees? Naiyana Thanawattho, Executive Director of Asylum Access Thailand, Emily Arnold-Fernández, President and CEO of Asylum Access, and Waritsara Rungthong of the Peace Way Foundation have provided key insight into this conundrum in an article featured in the latest issue of Forced Migration Review by drawing on their experience in Thailand.

Around the world, the vast majority of forcibly displaced people live in countries neighboring or proximate to the home country that they fled from. For many, this means that they are living in a country that does not have a system in place for recognizing who needs refugee status and therefore should be allowed to stay in the country.

Take Thailand, for example. Despite sheltering tens of thousands of forcibly displaced people from Myanmar in camps run by the UNHCR along its borders, and further thousands of refugees from many different countries living in urban areas such as Bangkok, Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and does not recognize the right of forcibly displaced people to stay and seek asylum.

How do you go about advancing the rights of refugees in a challenging context such as this? The answer: locally-led civil society.

In an effort to address the increasing number of problems refugees face in Thailand, the Coalition for the Rights and Refugees and Stateless Persons (CRSP) was formed to help tackle these issues. Many NGOs that assist refugees are international and are unable to directly connect with the government due to language barriers and lack of credibility by government officials. By allowing Thai-led civil society organizations and individuals to assemble and lead, CRSP has been able to have a greater policy impact by bringing a multi-faceted approach to implementing new strategies for refugee protection. 

To learn more about CRSP and their approach in Thailand, check out the article ‘Advancing refugee rights in non-signatory States: the role of civil society in Thailand’ in the latest issue of Forced Migration Review by clicking here.