Thailand Aims to Reform Tough Refugee Policy After Saudi Asylum Case

01/21/2019 Thailand (International Christian Concern) – The 18-year-old Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun’s quest for resettlement as an asylum-seeker might inspire better treatment for Thailand’s refugee community.

On January 11, Al-Qunun who fled her family, claiming fear for her life, and used social media to amplify her calls for safe haven was granted asylum by Canada. This case which generated much global attention, seemed to spur hopes of a major policy turn from Thailand – a country that does not recognize refugees.

Since her departure, the Thai government has promised to address some of the lingering issues of indefinite detention and deportation of asylum seekers. Today Thai authorities signed an MoU to end the detention of all child refugees and asylum seekers. Thailand’s move was welcomed by the UNHCR as a “positive example” of the kingdom’s increasingly humane approach to the issue.

The kingdom has long been criticized for its inhumane treatment to the asylum seekers and refugees who crossed the borders into Thailand to escape horror and persecution. Among them, many are Pakistani Christians, Montagnard and Hmong Christians from Vietnam, or North Korean Christians. They are often locked in Immigration Detention Center (IDC), with crowded space and poor hygiene conditions. Many wait for years to be released, deported, or resettled in third country.

A Pakistani-Christian trapped in Bangkok’s biggest IDC told Associated Press that he was amazed at how fast Al-Qunun’s case was processed by the authorities, while his life is wasting away for months without knowing what holds tomorrow.

Thanks to Al-Qunun’s case, immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn has vowed to recalibrate the detention policy, saying the kingdom will no longer deport anyone “involuntarily”.

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