This report covers the period January to December 2017 and outlines TBC’s progress based on the organisation’s Strategic Directions for Thailand and Burma/Myanmar 2017–2019. TBC’s programmes reached more than 195,000 men, women, and children—about 97,0001 in nine refugee camps in Thailand, and 98,000 in 191 villages in southeast Burma/Myanmar.
The democratic reforms in Burma/Myanmar continued to be fragile, with little progress made in the peace process. In the beginning of the year in several parts of the country, national-level ethnic or regional dialogues took place in preparation for the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference held in May 2017, where basic principles concerning federalism were signed. However, some key disagreements between the ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) and the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) were not resolved, including an objection by EAOs to a Tatmadaw proposal for the inclusion of a clause about non-secession, and the refusal of the Tatmadaw to include clauses related to self-determination and state-level constitutions.
In the second half of the year, violence in Rakhine State dominated the government and international community discussion in the second half of the year. More than 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee to Bangladesh, following attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on security forces at the end of August, which led to counter attacks that caused people to leave. While the Government of Myanmar (GoUM) and the Government of Bangladesh later agreed on repatriation processes, there was little progress by the end of the year, and people continued to flee Rakhine State.
Thailand continued to mourn the loss of the late King Bhumiphol Adulyadej, and the year-long mourning period concluded with a five-day royal cremation ceremony in Bangkok in October. Also the timeline for the general election, promised after the May 2014 military coup d’état and continuously pushed back since- may now be held in early 2019. Separately, the RTG set up a committee to explore the possibility of becoming a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and developing a national refugee status determination process. This further stimulated National Security Council (NSC) discussions on issues and challenges facing refugees and asylum seekers in Thailand.
At the end of December, 93,337 refugees remained in camps; during the year, 4,095 people returned to Burma/Myanmar, 2,178 departed for third country resettlement, and around 2,670 left the camps to seek alternatives in Thailand. There were 1,745 new-borns in the camps over the year.
Throughout the year TBC focused on increasing the integration of its programmes for food security, nutrition, shelter and camp management, with the emphasis on the most vulnerable people in the communities. This focus continued in parallel with preparedness initiatives for voluntary return, resettlement and reintegration. The Food Card System (FCS) programme was expanded to 100 percent coverage in two camps, replacing traditional in-kind food assistance, increasing diversity in families’ diets, and giving refugees more control over their resources.
Expenses for 2017 were THB 684M against a budget of THB 701M, reflecting various downsizing/cost-cutting measures as well as lower-than-expected commodity prices for most food and cooking fuel supplies. TBC’s operating budget for 2018 is THB 610M (USD 17 M).