Top Stories : Presentation by the Ambassador of Thailand at the UNHCR side event on Comprehensive Approaches to Protection at Sea, 25 June 2015 News

Top Stories : Presentation by the Ambassador of Thailand at the UNHCR side event on Comprehensive Approaches to Protection at Sea, 25 June 2015



H.E. Mr. Thani Thongphakdi

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Thailand

at the

UNHCR Side Event: Comprehensive Approaches to Protection at Sea

25 June 2015, 13.15-15.00, Room XIV, Palais des Nations




Mr. Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner,


As you mentioned, Southeast Asia, like other regions, is facing the global phenomenon of rising irregular migration, posing significant challenges for countries of origin, transit and destination.  Irregular migration in Southeast Asia cuts across diverse groups and causes of movement, with some seeking protection and safety while others pursuing economic opportunities.


As a transit country, Thailand has long been affected by a mixed flow of migrants. The influx has impacted seriously the country’s socio-economic development and creates a very real security concern.


The new challenge in the region has come in the form of irregular maritime movement of migrants from Rakhine State and Bangladesh. The complexity of the problem demands a multi-faceted approach, with close cooperation from every country involved in order to ensure comprehensive and sustainable solutions.


In this connection, Thailand hosted the Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean on 29 May 2015, with the participation of 17 countries concerned and relevant international organizations, including the UNHCR, ably represented by you, Mr. Assistant High Commissioner, the Director-General of the IOM and the UNODC.


The meeting provided a timely opportunity for affected countries and the international community to renew commitment and galvanize their actions to address this problem in a systematic, comprehensive and sustainable manner. 


Representatives of all five most affected countries, namely Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand, attended, which is an achievement in itself. They reaffirmed their country’s full commitment to continue providing humanitarian assistance to the migrants stranded at sea and victims of trafficking as well as to strengthen their cooperation on law enforcement to put an end to the activities of the criminal networks.


The IOM underlined the importance of comprehensive migration management, while the UNHCR called for innovative solutions to the complex problem and to ensure assistance for those in need of protection.


Three layers of solutions were recommended: immediate response, long-term solutions and measures to address the root causes of the problem.


The immediate priority is to save lives. Here, responses required to protect people stranded at sea included the need to:


·        intensify search and rescue operations to ensure the safety of the irregular migrants at sea. On Thailand’s part, Royal Thai Navy vessels were deployed in May to serve as floating platforms. The Royal Thai Navy and Royal Thai Air Force have also conducted search and rescue operations in Thai and adjacent international waters;

·        explore further means for identifying predictable disembarkation options and reception arrangements for those rescued; and

·        mobilize resources of the international community to the appeals of international organizations to support emergency responses in the spirit of international burden-sharing.


In the longer-term, there was a call to:


·        strengthen national law enforcement to combat people smuggling and human trafficking. This is something the Royal Thai Government is taking very seriously, having announced combating trafficking in persons as a national agenda with a zero-tolerance policy;

·        ensure a transparent and efficient recruitment process to eliminate contributing factors that enable unsafe irregular migration;

·        enhance legal, affordable and safe channels of migration to promote opportunities and deter irregular migration activities, such as through bilateral employment MOUs; and

·        develop and implement comprehensive multimedia regional communication campaigns to inform prospective irregular migrants of the risks of undertaking such a dangerous journey by sea.


Importantly, the need to address root causes and improve livelihood in at-risk communities was well recognised. To address factors in the areas of origin, the Meeting agreed, among other things, upon the need to:


·        promote the capacity building of local communities;

·        provide economic incentives that create more jobs,

·        promote trade and investment as well as development assistance to the at-risk areas;

·        enhance a sense of security and belonging; and

·        promote full respect for human rights and adequate access of people to basic rights and services.


The situation in Rakhine State remains one of the most challenging factors. Given its complexity and sensitivity, this issue needs to be handled properly in order to prevent adverse impact on the country’s reform and overall security of the region.  The international community should work closely with Myanmar in order to overcome this challenge.


Thailand does not see the Special Meeting as a one off event. We need to continue our dialogue, particularly in ensuring that the recommendations emanating from the meeting are effectively implemented.


The outcome of the Meeting will therefore feed into the various related regional and multilateral fora for further discussion and implementation, including the Emergency ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (EAMMTC) to be convened on 2 July in Malaysia, as well as the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime later this year.


As an active member of both ASEAN and the Bali Process, Thailand will push for early and coordinated implementation at these fora and explore how best to integrate these efforts into the existing frameworks.


Looking ahead, I am glad to learn that the topic of the High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges in December will be on “Root Causes” which, following the discussion on protection at sea last year, will be an important opportunity for States and relevant stakeholders to exchange views on sustainable and long-term solutions.


The problem of irregular migration is a global challenge and cannot be solved single-handedly overnight. It requires concerted efforts from every country based on the principle of international burden-sharing and the spirit of solidarity.


Here, the experience from the Mediterranean perspective and the overall picture provided by other speakers today will be very useful for our region’s future endeavours.


I thank you.