This report covers the period January to December 2019 and outlines TBC’s progress based on the organisation’s Strategic Directions for Thailand and Myanmar 2017–2019.3 TBC’s programmes reached more than 135,000 men, women, and children—about 85,0004 in nine refugee camps in Thailand, and over 50,000 in 14 townships in south eastern Myanmar. 2019 marked 35 years working with displaced people from Myanmar.
In Myanmar relations between the civilian and military wings of government deteriorated during 2019 in a prelude of political campaigning leading up to elections at the end of 2020. Formal peace negotiations stalled with the Fourth Session of the Union Peace Conference indefinitely postponed. Armed conflict escalated in Rakhine State and northern Shan State between the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) that were excluded from the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). In south eastern Myanmar, Tatmadaw militarisation and road construction intensified in northern Karen State and villagers fled into Thailand due to clashes near Three Pagodas Pass all which highlighted the insecurity of areas of potential refugee return.
The situation in Thailand remained relatively stable over the course of the year. The much-awaited election took place in March with the pro-military party forming Thailand’s new government despite numerous allegations about lack of transparency and irregularities of the election process. RTG initiated several bilateral and multi-lateral discussions regarding asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons in Thailand and displayed increased willingness to streamline and regularize the migrant labour force in the country including discussing options for refugees to become migrant workers in the future.
At the end of December, 81,274 refugees remained in camps. During the year, 2,575 people returned to Myanmar, 2,999 departed for third country resettlement, and around 1,555 people left the camps to seek alternatives in Thailand. There were 1,828 children born in the camps over the year.
Food assistance was enhanced with the full rollout of the cash-based Food Card System (FCS) in the camps, providing more choice and dignity for refugees. Preliminary results from the Biennial Nutrition Survey were encouraging and indicated a further reduction in stunting by 6%, while wasting remained low at 2.2%. Food security initiatives in Myanmar strengthened the resilience of conflict affected communities. TBC upheld principles of protection, and supported local partners to provide humanitarian support in emergencies due to fire, flood and landslides in camps and displacement by conflict and flooding in Myanmar, while Camp Committees (CCs) and local CSO/CBO partners in Thailand and Myanmar strengthened capabilities for good governance and organisational development. The aim of these activities was not only for refugees’ future life outside of camp but also for conflict-affected communities in Myanmar.
Expenses for 2019 were THB 510M (USD 16M) against a budget of THB 545M (USD 17M), reflecting various cost-cutting measures, as well as lower-than-expected commodity prices. TBC’s operating budget for 2020 is THB 519M (USD 16.2M).