Khun Yuam police superintendent was transferred from his post on Tuesday for failing to immediately reach the refugee camp which was on fire, resulting in more than 37 deaths last Friday.
National police spokesman Maj Gen Piya Uthayo said Pol Col Nitinart Wittayawutthikul has been transferred to the office of Mae Hong Son provincial police for 30 days as he did not arrive the Mae Surin refugee camp in Khun Yuam district immediately when the fire broke out.
The spokesman said Col Nitinart also failed to comply with his superior’s orders and was unprepared to perform his duty.
Mae La Noi police station deputy superintendent Pol Lt Col Pongsakorn Ratsameerojsakul has been assigned to temporarily replace the outgoing superintendent.
While Thailand is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the generosity of the Royal Thai Government in hosting refugees and asylum-seekers has spanned several decades. The country currently hosts some 84,900 registered refugees and an estimated 62,000 unregistered asylum-seekers from Myanmar in nine camps along the Thai-Myanmar border.
The blaze killed 37 refugees, 21 of them men and 16 women, and injured more than 100 others as fire raged at the camp last Friday.
About 3,500 ethnic Karen people live in the camp. Initial reports suggested some 2,300 lost their homes and possessions in the disaster.
Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Pradit Sintawanarong said he has instructed health officials including Surveillance and Rapid Response teams (SRRT) and malaria control units to visit the temporary shelter to prevent the possible outbreak of contagious diseases.
The minister said essential medical kits have been distributed to the affected refugees, while concerned officials are also monitoring the hygiene of food, drinking water and sanitation systems, including toilets and garbage disposal to prevent diarrhea. (MCOT online news)
The fire broke out in Ban Mae Surin camp in Mae Hong Son province on Friday afternoon. It spread quickly to destroy more than 400 homes, a school, clinic, warehouse, community facilities as well as government and aid agency offices. Refugees with serious burns have been taken to local hospitals.
The Thai authorities are investigating the cause. They are also leading relief efforts in the government-administered camp, working closely with UNHCR and NGOs, including International Rescue Committee (IRC), The Border Consortium and the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR).
The survivors are being provided with food and drinking water.
Temporary health services have been set up and the IRC is working with Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health to provide psycho-social counselling to the affected population.
2013 UNHCR country operations profile – Thailand
Thailand has been affected by events in neighbouring Myanmar, which saw unprecedented political developments in 2011 and 2012. Negotiations between the Government of Myanmar and ethnic armed groups have resulted in a series of ceasefire agreements that have brought relative calm to south-eastern Myanmar. The cessation of hostilities is significant for Myanmar refugees in Thailand: the vast majority of those registered and living in the Thai camps originate from areas in Myanmar where ceasefires have been announced. While the peace is fragile, it has increased the prospects for voluntary returns to Myanmar.
Admission to the refugee camps in Thailand is governed by Thailand’s Provincial Admissions Board, which has not been functional since 2006. However, in 2012 the Thai Government initiated a fast-track procedure that provides access to the Board for unregistered camp residents – if they are immediate family members of registered individuals already resettled or in the process of being so – to facilitate their eventual resettlement and reunion with family members.
UNHCR operates in a challenging environment in Thailand characterized by inadequate protection space for many persons of concern. Thailand is at the centre of ever-larger migratory movements in the region, and hosts an estimated 2 million migrants. Such numbers can lead to a blurring of the distinction between asylum-seekers and those coming predominantly for economic reasons. Refugees and asylum-seekers living outside the camps and in urban areas are regarded as illegal migrants under immigration law and are subject to arrest, detention and/or deportation. The number of people of concern to UNHCR in detention has declined recently, as many individuals have been released on bail with NGO assistance; however, arrests continue.
Although Thailand is not party to either of the statelessness conventions, amendments to the Civil Registration Act in 2008 provide for universal birth registration. This allows for the issuance of birth certificates to all children born in the country, regardless of the status of their parents, and will help prevent statelessness.
Meanwhile, Government data indicates that some 506,200 people were deemed to be without a nationality, or stateless, as of 31 December 2011. UNHCR will coordinate closely with national authorities to update these figures periodically and reflect Thailand’s progress in implementing the 2012 Comprehensive Strategy to Address Problems of Irregular Migrants, under which those without nationality would undergo verification and may acquire nationality and/or have their status regularized.