Facing persecution as a minority ethnic group in Myanmar, the Rohingya refugees have been fleeing their homeland since the 1970s. Some have ventured to Bangladesh, languishing in refugee camps for over 17 years. Still others have taken the riskier route to refuge traveling by sea to Thailand and Malaysia. Reports this week have captured the Thai government in an act that in my opinion can be deemed as refoulement. Under international law there are many protections afforded to refugees, one of the most fundamental is the principle of non-refoulement. This principle of customary international law (outlined in Article 33 of the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention) “prohibits States from returning a refugee or asylum-seeker to territories where there is a risk that his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” (Source: UNHCR). While the Thai government isn’t forcing the Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar, they are rejected from their border and forcibly taken out to sea where options are limited to death at sea or returning to a nation that systematically persecutes them based on their religious beliefs and ethnic background.
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