Chiang Rai begins controversial repatriation of 126 Burmese children

Picture courtesy of banmuang.

Yesterday, police in Chiang Rai started the process of repatriating 126 Burmese children who lack official registration documents. These children, aged between seven and 16 years old, were students at a school in Ang Thong and were shipped on four buses with plans to transfer them to five separate shelters before sending them back to their home country. This action has drawn criticism as it is contrary to the principles of the Child Protection Act, and exposes youngsters to the potential hazards of a war zone.

The children were accompanied by representatives from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, as well as Lieutenant Thitawat Suriyachai, an officer in digital crime investigations. It was noted that these children, who lacked Thai nationality, attended a school in Ang Thong province. However, inquiries from the Office of the Basic Education Commission in Ang Thong into this unusually large group revealed that these children were brought from Myanmar to study. Consequently, charges were filed against the school director and efforts were initiated to return these children to their home country, plucking them abruptly from their education, reported KhaoSod.

Tuenchai Deeted, a former member of the Chiang Rai Provincial Council, cited the closing of small schools by the Ministry of Education as a cause of this issue. Smaller schools feel pressured to bring in students from elsewhere to maintain operational numbers. However, she noted children from neighbouring countries come to Thailand for safer living conditions due to ongoing conflicts in their homeland.

Santipong Moonfuang, manager of the Foundation for the Status of Stateless Persons, argued that these children should be protected under the Child Right Convention and the Child Protection Act. They should face no charges or forced repatriation, considering the unsafe conditions from where they have potentially migrated. He mentioned that these issues have been brought to the attention of the National Human Rights Commission, urging that the relevant agencies act swiftly.

Sripapha Phetchmeesri, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University, has pointed out that pushing these children out of the country contravenes the principles outlined in the Child Protection Act and the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Thailand is a state party. She also emphasised the right of these children to education, calling for their rights to be safeguarded despite their nationality and legal status.

Thailand News

Nattapong Westwood

Nattapong Westwood is a Bangkok-born writer who is half Thai and half Aussie. He studied in an international school in Bangkok and then pursued journalism studies in Melbourne. Nattapong began his career as a freelance writer before joining Thaiger. His passion for news writing fuels his dedication to the craft, as he consistently strives to deliver engaging content to his audience.

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