no way to legally enter Thailand. 24 In response to this, the Rohingya must be provided with a way
to legally seek asylum and other forms of protection, either by permitting the UNHCR to create a
refugee status for the Rohingya or by reinstating the government-led process of placing these
refugees in Thai-Burmese border camps. 25 The Thai government must also stop its practice of
indefinitely detaining Rohingya refugees, especially children, in immigration detention centers. 26
The international community must take concrete steps to share the responsibility of protecting the
This Article will first discuss the background of the Rohingya to provide an
understanding of their flight from Burma, as well as their treatment upon arrival in Thailand as
dictated by Thai policies. Next, this Article will identify gaps between existing international and
Thai laws, illuminating the lack of a legal framework to guide the asylum-seeking process in
Thailand. Finally, the Article will discuss various proposals for responding to the Rohingya crisis,
specifically suggesting substantive changes in Thai law and increased cooperation and
accountability with other countries.
II. BACKGROUND OF THE BURMESE ROHINGYA AND INTERNAL CONFLICT IN BURMA
The Rohingya are a Sunni Muslim population who reside primarily in the Arakan State of
Burma near the border of Bangladesh. 28 The Burmese government claims that the Rohingya are
originally Bengalis who have arrived in Burma in the last few generations. 29 The conflict between
the majority, the Burmese Buddhists, and the minority, the Muslim Rohingya, however, dates
back to the fifteenth century, when Muslims began to migrate to Burma. 30 Aggressive persecution
of the Rohingya began in 1784, when the Burmese government took over the independent
Rakhine province. 31 Subsequently, the Burmese government instituted discriminatory policies
against the Rohingya; this included restricting the group’s movement and dispelling their right to
marry. 32 When Burma gained its independence from British rule in 1948, the Burmese Junta33
announced that the Rohingya would no longer be considered citizens, highlighting a religious
divide between Islam and Buddhism. 34 In 1947, a group of Rohingya were involved in the
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24 Nikki Ostrand, The Stateless Rohingya in Thailand, CTR. FOR MIGRATION STUDIES (July 16, 2014), http://cmsny.org/the-stateless-rohingya-in-thailand/; Zoe Daniel, Thai Military Accused of Trafficking Refugees, ABC NEWS (Mar. 11, 2013, 7: 45 AM),
25 FARMER, supra note 22, at 62.
26 Id. at 61.
27 Salem News, International Community Urged to Stop the ‘Silent Genocide’ of Rohingya Muslims, U.N. HIGH COMM’R FOR
REFUGEES (Jan. 26, 2014), http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/refdaily?pass=463ef21123&id=52e9f13e5.
28 Id.; Express Tribune, Rohingya: Stateless and ‘Friendless’ in Myanmar, U.N. HIGH COMM’R FOR REFUGEES (June 12, 2012),
29 Syed Zubair Ahmad, Rohingya Muslims: A Brief History of Centuries-Long Persecution, TWOCIRCLES.NET (July 29, 2012, 3: 21
30 DANISH IMMIGRATION SERV., ROHINGYA REFUGEES IN BANGLADESH AND THAILAND: FACT FINDING MISSION TO BANGLADESH
AND THAILAND 7 (2011) [hereinafter ROHINGYA REFUGEES IN BANGLADESH AND THAILAND], available at
32 Id. at 9.
33 Burmese military personnel, infamously known for having ruled the country from 1962 until 2011, suppressing all dissent, and
wielding absolute power in the face of international condemnation and sanctions. Specifically, the Junta have been accused of gross
human rights abuses, including the forcible relocation of civilians and the widespread use of forced labor, including children.
Myanmar Profile, BBC NEWS (Oct. 7, 2014, 10: 26 AM), http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12990563.
34 Zubair Ahmad, supra note 29; Rodion Michael Ebbighausen, Myanmar Monks Protest Against Minority Muslims, DEUTSCHE
WELLE (Mar. 9, 2012), http://www.dw.de/myanmar-monks-protest-against-minority-muslims/a-16217797; see also Burma
Acknowledges Mass Burnings in Rakhine Unrest, BBC NEWS (Oct. 27, 2012, 12: 13 AM), http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-