Source AP ©

Thailand should allow Myanmar refugees work

Thailand should allow the 140,000 Myanmar refugees living in border camps to get work in the kingdom.

Thailand needs to take steps toward letting the refugees find employment "in the vicinity of the camps," Erika Feller, the U.N. Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters.

Decades of fighting between Myanmar's military regime and ethnic minorities have sparked massive internal displacement as well as an influx of refugees to neighboring Thailand. The two countries share a 2,400-kilometer (1,491-mile) border.

Refugees living in the border camps are not allowed to work in Thailand and can be arrested if they are caught outside the camps without identification documents.

The UNHCR has registered and issued identity cards to 85,000 of the refugees, giving them "key protection," and providing a first step toward seeking employment outside the camps, Feller said.

Allowing the refugees to work would also reduce their dependency on international aid, she said.

Some 8,500 Myanmar refugees have already moved the United States and other countries under a UNHCR resettlement program since 2004, and another 10,000 are expected to be resettled this year, Feller said.