THAILAND: Canadian Columnist Explains Complexities of Political Asylum

By Asia Media staff writer Brian Canave (pictured above) — Amid all the articles and columns published in the world, with topics ranging from technology to the latest fashion, we have for you a golden beacon of hope: a column exemplifying journalism’s sense of social responsibility at its best. Well-known columnist Campbell Clark, of The Globe and Mail in Toronto, has recently shed much light on the international problem of immigration, smuggling, and refugees by taking on some of the conventional wisdom about refugee smuggling.

The issue: In 2010, the ship MV Sun Sea arrived at British Columbia carrying 492 Sri Lankan Tamils from Thailand. Since then, Prime Minister Harper of Canada has met with Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra about signing an international convention on the refugee issue. He proposes to stop the smuggling by cracking down on the gangs that load the asylum seekers into boats, including gangs from Thailand.

Canadian Columnist Clark takes issue with his country’s prime minister and his hard-line approach, pointing out that in many instances refugees are not just people trying to sneak into another country but targets of severe repression. But when asylum seekers reach Thailand, they can face arrest and return to their country, such as Sri Lanka, where they would be exposed to severe repression.

Thailand, for its part – and to its credit — is actually considered something of an asylum haven in Asia. The country currently harbors 92,000 registered refugees and 50,000 unregistered asylum-seekers. Clark proposes that instead of simply banning asylum by making it a crime, Thailand should separate real asylum seekers from illegal immigrants and then make a substantial effort to resettle them in other countries if the Thai government feels the country has already taken in its fair share.

The media often does irresponsible reporting citizens on difficult issues like these.  But this is not the case with columnist Campbell, who lobbies the authorities to understand the complexities of the issue with superior journalism. Asia Media cannot offer enough praise for articles and columns that try their best to educate readers on complex problems. Sometimes those readers will even include a prime minister.

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