Thailand hosts large numbers of refugees from Myanmar. HI works in the refugee camps, providing services to landmines victims and people with disabilities, improving the living conditions and promoting the inclusion of vulnerable people and people with disabilities in their communities and providing risk education awareness to the refugees.
Supporting an amputee, Thailand - Humanity & Inclusion | © Erika Pineros / HI
HI was set up in Thailand in 1982 by two French doctors. It started out trying to help the refugees living in camps set up along the border with Cambodia, offering orthopaedic fitting to people with disabilities or those who had lost limbs as a result of landmine accidents. By 1984, HI was also helping refugees from Myanmar, and soon Thai people, who had also fallen victim to anti-personnel landmines. These activities in the country led to the opening of fifteen orthopaedic fitting workshops, which now form part of Thailand’s network of provincial hospitals.
Since 1996, the organisation focuses its action on nine Burmese refugee camps and on the neighbouring Thai villages. It enhances the self-reliance of people with disabilities by supplying physiotherapy sessions and locally produced prostheses and adapted devices (orthoses, crutches, walkers, etc.).
Pending the clearance of landmines from the border areas between Myanmar and Thailand, HI is raising refugees’ awareness of the dangers posed by mines and other explosive remnants of war. These awareness-raising actions should reduce the risks they will face when they will return to Myanmar.
HI also runs a social inclusion project for refugees with disabilities from Myanmar, improving their access to the various services in the camps. As a result, people with disabilities now have access to education, vocational training and primary health care.
Since January 2016, the site is managed within the MyTh program (created in January 2016 with its regional office in Yangon), in line with the refugees’ repatriation process, and aims at strengthening the coordination between HI activities in Myanmar and in Thailand around refugees’ reintegration.
There are more than 90,000 refugees from Myanmar living in Thailand and the route back is littered with vast numbers of anti-personnel mines.
Thailand is one of the main countries hosting asylum-seekers and refugees from Myanmar. Since 1984, the country has seen an influx of people fleeing political violence in Myanmar and, more recently, of economic migrants. However, the situation in Myanmar has evolved since 2011, mainly thanks to political changes in the country, and the number of refugees living in the camps has been declining steadily, but remains high. Living conditions are extremely precarious in the nine camps along the Myanmar/Thailand border, where HI works, especially for people with disabilities. Refugees are heavily reliant on the humanitarian aid provided by international NGOs and local organisations.
The border region is still contaminated by countless mines. These weapons constitute a major obstacle to the refugees returning to their country of origin on a voluntary and permanent basis.
Number of HI staff members: 160
Date the programme opened: 1982