5. Protection Capacity

“There is help – but unfortunately, she cannot see because she is blinded by fear, by all the worry and shame and trauma.” (Refugee woman, 2019)

In addition to SGBV and Barriers to Participation, the major cross cuts are with education, solutions, and energy and infrastructure.

Apart from the specific examples mentioned below, the issues discussed in this theme covered all groups, including age groups up to and including the elderly, women with a disability, LBTI women and widows.

The fact that the Governments of Malaysia and Thailand, despite generously hosting refugees for over thirty years, have still not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention makes the refugees feel very insecure. They requested that a strong case for signing the Convention be advocated to the Malaysian and Thai governments, as a pathway to realising more of their human rights.

There was concern that the international community is not aware of the very serious humanitarian crisis developing on the border because of the reductions in aid and a plea that they are made aware of and respond to this. They requested that there be no further cuts to essential services, which are currently all providing less than a minimum standard of services until it is safe for the camp population to return to a secure future in Burma/Myanmar.

The women reported numerous examples of lack of access to justice systems and the protection offered by There were also some disturbing reports of harassment and sexual abuse by authority figures leading to a serious under-reporting of SGBV and pervasive impunity for perpetrators. The women reported that they felt that SGBV, in particular domestic violence, was often not considered or treated as a criminal act.

Finally, the women and the service providers commented on the lack of data or “evidence” collected on the key issues that affect them. They perceived this as a major barrier to addressing the problems.

Protection Capacity – Girls 0 – 12 years:

First I want to advocate for my documents – legal documents which I don’t have…. For me and my children. Next advocate for me is education – the right of education for our children because they are our next generation and I don’t want them to be like us – uneducated!

Refugee woman, 2019

Despite the work undertaken by Thai human rights activists to guarantee the right of every child born in Thailand to be issued a birth certificate, in some cases and in some camps, there is still not universal access to birth registration. In other cases, documents have been lodged with officials in the camps, and a year later, parents have still not received a Thai birth certificate. Refugees are usually unable to leave the camp themselves to go to the MOI to arrange this. In other cases, there are older children who for some reason do not have birth certificates, which has serious ramifications for their access to services and durable solutions. The refugees asked that steps be taken to remedy these problems which are causing a lot of anxiety to parents. Many of the participants, who are women leaders, did not have full information about birth registration and the issuing of birth certificates. They requested that this be made available to all parents in all camps.

Protection Capacity – Girls 13 – 17, Women 18 -24, and Women 25 – 50 years:

The women highlighted the serious lack of health and protection services as well as the risks of sexual harassment when they move around the camp as a major barrier to accessing health and protection services. They also reported experiencing sexual harassment and requests for bribes when visiting health clinics or when requesting permission for hospital transfer.

There are numerous protection gaps for vulnerable groups, due to family and community neglect, and lack of targeted services. Vulnerable groups often have no knowledge or means to access services that do exist.

Women discussed how lack of adequate protection services and access to justice for parents who suffered from sexual violence often rebounds on children, who witness violence in the home and are often the targets of violence.

A woman was raped by her violent husband and became pregnant, they could not even feed the children they had, and had no money for healthcare.  She went to the hospital and begged for an abortion, and was told “You should have thought about it before you had unprotected sex – so it is your fault and you cannot have an abortion

Refugee woman, 2019