Assisting Refugees in Thailand With International Justice Mission

With an internal war in Myanmar tearing at the country for more than 50 years, refugees have been pouring into northern Thailand, seeking some way to survive. In response to this need, Compassion and International Justice Mission (IJM) have partnered over the past two years to help support the refugees as they begin a new life.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) states that over the last four decades, 1.3 million refugees have emigrated from Myanmar to Thailand.

Thailand has been willing to help refugees by providing shelter, schooling and basic survival needs (e.g., food, shelter and medical care) via nine refugee camps along the border. Currently, Thailand hosts 112,000 registered refugees, of which an estimated 50,000 are not in a border camp.

According to the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers, “The Regime’s army has built roads and camps in ethnic homelands forcing people to relocate or flee into the jungle. There is documented forced labor and the use of rape as a weapon … The Regime’s army lays land mines down to keep villagers from returning home and supporting resistance. They aim to dominate the population, assimilate them and exploit them.”

The refugees are mainly ethnic Karen and Kareeni. They’ve been in exile longer than many other groups in the world. Returning home seems unlikely.

Compassion Thailand has 13 child development centers located along the Thai-Myanmar border, where Karen children are receiving support through child sponsorship. But among these children, there have been many issues of non-citizenship and child rights.

We equip the center staff with knowledge and understanding about child protection, but one form of child protection training is offered by IJM. Every staff member from our 201 child development centers in Thailand attended IJM’s training last year. The training taught the center staff how to provide a safe environment for children, discussed forms of abuse, and addressed ways to educate both parents and children on how to treat one another.

The staff also learned how to recognize the physical and behavioral signs of child abuse, along with how to respond properly.

For the center staff working along the Thai-Myanmar border, citizenship was another training topic conducted. Many of the refugees have not received Thai citizenship because they don’t know how to apply. The staff learned the proper procedures from the town baliff and a citizen specialist.

IJM is also helping Compassion Thailand through the legal process of obtaining citizenship for refugees. The centers along the Thai-Myanmar border are in the process of surveying and collecting the documents to prove that the children were born in Thailand and have a right to Thai citizenship. After the staff collect the documents, they send a report to the Compassion Thailand office and IJM assists our office staff with the next steps.

4 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Holly Sorell February 19, 2011

    Our family is currently living in S Korea and were blessed to travel to Thailand last week. my 3 and 6 year old daughters want to adopt a compassion child in the TH 339 group, I am having troubles finding it here, we were very excited to see our missionary friend who does dental work with the Karen tribals and has loved this group for over 40 years. We did a surprise visited and were very impressed by the love and joy of the compassion director, we could tangibly see Compassion at work in partnership with other missions there ie a church plant, dental work, etc. Their country is beautiful and we want to help provide some needs. I appreciate compassions integrity and to see how the dollar can really stretch and take care of so many children around the world. It was a dream come true to watch my girls run around the village, I have always wanted to see a compassion site at work and was pleasantly surprised that our friend has connections with Compassion in such a remote area…

  2. Lisa Miles August 5, 2010

    Rachel, I have a question. If someone wanted to sponsor a child who has been refugeed from Burma, to Thailand, do we have numbers for those 13 child centers that are located on the border? Or could the call center folks choose a child for us from that group?

    Also, do those child centers ever fear for their safety — is there any violence or recrimination that seeps over from Burma into Thailand? I’ve heard that border is fairly porous.

    I read that Laura Bush made the plight of the Burmese people one of her main causes. Do many Burmese refugees make it to the U.S.?

  3. Lisa Miles August 5, 2010

    My heart breaks for what the children of Burma have suffered — both those who are internally displaced and those who have become refugees in other countries.

    I get discouraged when I think of how the leaders of Burma (Myanmar) can stand by and watch children suffer — and play such a direct role in that suffering. It’s just not human. How is it so easy for some to inflict cruelty on others? Especially on a child? I don’t understand.

    I pray EVERYDAY that our Compassion kids, who are raised in love and in the love of Christ, will become the political leaders of the future.

  4. Jen Marshall August 4, 2010

    Thank you Rachel for this information. I love IJM and I just started a group at church where we are reading IJM’s book, “Good News About Injustice”. I am a Compassion Advocate and love to see how these two organizations are partnering together. I’ve heard that when IJM rescues young girls from sex slavery, that sometimes they are able to put the girls in a Compassion project for care and rehabilitation. I would love to see blog posts about that too! Thank you again!

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