122. Paper Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

GC 78–10048

The Refugee Resettlement Problem in Thailand

Key Points

In the two and a half years since the Communist takeovers in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, approximately 160,000 displaced Indochinese have sought refuge in Thailand. An estimated 100,000 of these refugees remain in the country.

The repressive political systems and poor economic prospects in the Indochina countries continue to spur large numbers to seek better conditions in Thailand. Nearly all Indochinese reaching Thailand are admitted to 1 of the 13 refugee camps jointly operated and funded by the Thai Government, the UN High Commission for Refugees, and a number of voluntary agencies. Among the 13 camps there is considerable variety in living conditions. There are common complaints over inadequate food rations, insufficient water, and crowded conditions, but reliable observers familiar with refugee conditions in other parts of the world report that none of the problems with basic camp services are critical. There is generally adequate food, shelter, and medical attention.

Confronted with the prospect of a continuing influx of new refugees, the Thai Government has been reluctant officially to concede that many will have to be permanently resettled in Thailand, believing that to do so would encourage a substantial increase in the influx of refugees. Privately, however, senior government officials realize the inevitability of Thailand absorbing a large number of the Indochinese refugees.

Bangkok is only now beginning to formulate a long term refugee policy, and permanent resettlement of camp inhabitants is not expected to begin before mid-1978. Worrisome problems, however, are associated with resettlement and the Thai Government has expressed a number of major concerns:

• the difficulties in locating an adequate number of suitable resettlement sites in the underdeveloped but politically sensitive North and Northeast regions

• the perception that the refugees pose an increased security threat in areas already troubled with Communist insurgents

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• the fear that Thai peasants will resent more than minimal aid to the refugees, particularly as they are resettled in remote rural areas where the central government traditionally has lagged in providing development funds for its own citizens.

According to US Embassy officials in Bangkok, Thailand is unable to bear all the costs of major permanent resettlement programs alone. Senior Thai officials, for their part, have made clear that greater international recognition and financial and technical support for Thailand’s role in absorbing the Indochinese refugees are expected. Bangkok looks to the United States in particular for long term major financial assistance, and, at the least, Thai officials probably expect an increase in US funds already contributed through the UN High Commission for Refugees to help offset the costs of a resettlement program.

[Omitted here is the body of the paper.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Transnational Issues, Job 79T01050A: Production Files, Box 7, Folder 9: The Refugee Resettlement Problem in Thailand. Confidential. Prepared in the National Foreign Assessment Center.