SPORT AND PLAY PROGRAM FOR REFUGEES FROM BURMA
The majority of refugees from Burma fled to Thailand in 1995 following a major offensive by the Burmese government army against the Karen National Union (KNU). However, a small number of refugees have been present in Thailand since the 1960s, living in sporadic settlements until camps were formed by the Thai government in the late nineties. Historically, the Karen people have advocated for political independence from the central government in Burma and this advocacy devolved into a civil war between the Karen National Union (KNU) and the military-ruling government. Many refugees fled Burma in order to escape political and ethnic persecution, while others who have been forced to flee are casualties of the protracted civil unrest.
The situation of refugees from Burma is unique as Thailand is not a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees and consequently does not recognize their rights. Asylum seekers are not distinguished from other immigrants, legal or illegal and are only permitted to stay in Thailand at the discretion of the government. As a result, the Thai government is not required to provide protection, shelter or food for refugees who are restricted from leaving the camps and unable to secure legal employment. Refugees in Thailand therefore survive off of the support and services provided by non-government organizations (NGOs) working in the camps.
Children and youth, who comprise a significant proportion of total refugee population, do not experience a stable, peaceful and secure existence characterized by opportunities for holistic development. The effects of living in temporary shelters in refugee camps for extended periods of time, discrimination, violence, limited access to educational opportunities and the uncertainty associated with repatriation are ongoing realities for the majority of refugee children and have a negative impact on children’s physical, emotional and social well being.
Children in refugee camps face barriers to education and healthy physical and emotional development as a result of separation from their homeland, and/or families, and challenges associated with living in a protracted refugee situation. Their experience has been one of fear, violence and prolonged uncertainty. The situation of the refugees is further aggravated by the fact that refugees are not allowed to leave the camp and as such have limited access to livelihood opportunities and basic social services. Quality basic education is a human right and necessary for refugee children and youth to pursue meaningful lives. In addition, sport and play provide the opportunities to overcome barriers to holistic development. In order to address these challenges the Thailand Refugee program is designed with the following objectives:
1. Provide regular and inclusive sport and play activities to improve the physical, emotional and social well-being of refugee children and youth.
2. Improve and support quality basic education for students in the seven refugee camps along the Thailand-Burma/Myanmar border.
3. Facilitate progress towards sustainable education solutions by enhancing cooperation collaboration networking and policy discussions amongst relevant stakeholders
The Sport and Play Program for Refugees from Burma seeks to address a number of key challenges that present barriers to the holistic development of children and youth in a refugee setting. By collaborating closely with the Karen Refugee Committee Education Entity and by training nursery, primary and physical education teachers in Right To Play resources, children and youth in schools in the camps benefit from regular play and sport based learning activities. These activities are aligned with specific learning outcomes that promote healthy physical, emotional and social well being. The Teachers trained develop skills in child centered learning techniques and learn practical strategies to promote the holistic development of children in their school and community.
In addition, by training community volunteers to become Leaders, Right To Play programming also impacts children who might not be reached through the formal education system. The development of sport leagues and implementation of community Play Days in collaboration with partner organizations targets children who might be unaccompanied or those living with a disability who are often not integrated into the formal education system.
Project Start Date
ThamHin, Ban Don Yang, Nupo, Umpium Mai, Mae La Refugee, Mae La Oon and Mae Ra Ma LuangRefugee Camps
Royal Thai Ministry of Interior (MoI)
MoI is the Royal Thai Government responsible for security and entry to the refugee camps. MoI issues camp passes to NGOs that allow them to work in the refugee camps. Right To Play submits a yearly proposal and quarterly activity reports to MoI. MoI is also responsible for security in the camps.
Consolidated Committee for the Services to Displaced People in Thailand (CCSDPT)
CCSDPT is an umbrella organisation for NGOs providing services in the refugee camps. Membership is mandated by MOI in order for camp passes to be issued. Right To Play attends monthly Directors and Open Session meetings in Bangkok and coordinates with other members on its activities. Right To Play has been a member since February 2006. The benefits of the partnership to Right To Play include registration with MOI and coordination with other NGOs. The benefits of partnership with Right To Play include Right To Play filling a recognized gap in services provided on the camps.