Thailand hosts large numbers of refugees from Myanmar. HI works in the refugee camps, providing services to landmine victims and people with disabilities, improving living conditions, promoting inclusion and providing risk education.
Saw Soe Win stepped on a mine in 2011. He came to the Burmese camps in Thailand seeking services and received a prosthetic from Humanity & Inclusion. | © Erika Pineros / HI
Humanity & Inclusion was founded in Thailand in 1982 by two French doctors. They started out trying to help refugees living in camps set up along the border with Cambodia, offering orthopedic fitting to people with disabilities or those who had lost limbs as a result of landmine accidents. By 1984, HI was also helping refugees from Myanmar and soon Thai people who had also fallen victim to anti-personnel landmines. These activities in the country led to the opening of 15 orthopedic fitting workshops, which now form part of Thailand’s network of provincial hospitals.
Since 1996, the organization has focused its action on nine refugee camps and on the neighboring Thai villages. It enhances the self-reliance of people with disabilities by supplying physical therapy sessions and locally produced artificial limbs and adapted devices like braces, crutches and walkers.
Pending the clearance of landmines from the border areas between Myanmar and Thailand, HI is raising refugees’ awareness of the dangers posed by mines and other explosive remnants of war. These awareness-raising actions should reduce the risks they will face when they will return to Myanmar.
HI also runs a social inclusion project for refugees with disabilities from Myanmar, improving their access to the various services in the camps. As a result, people with disabilities now have access to education, vocational training and primary health care.
Since January 2016, the site is managed within the MyTh program which was created in January 2016 with its regional office in Yangon in line with the refugees’ repatriation process and aims at strengthening the coordination between HI activities in Myanmar and in Thailand around refugees’ reintegration.
There are more than 90,000 refugees from Myanmar living in Thailand and the route back is littered with vast numbers of anti-personnel mines.
Thailand is one of the main countries hosting asylum-seekers and refugees from Myanmar. Since 1984, the country has seen an influx of people fleeing political violence in Myanmar and, more recently, of economic migrants. The number of refugees living in the camps has been declining steadily but remains high. Living conditions are extremely precarious in the nine camps along the Myanmar/Thailand border, where HI works, especially for people with disabilities. Refugees are heavily reliant on the humanitarian aid provided by international NGOs and local organizations.
The border region is still contaminated by countless mines. These weapons constitute a major obstacle to refugees returning to their country of origin on a voluntary and permanent basis.
Number of HI staff members: 160
Program launch date: 1982