Detention of Refugee Children in Malaysia and Thailand
Are Alternatives to Detention (ATD) Workable?
The refugee issue in Malaysia and Thailand is one of the most protracted human rights issues that both countries face. Regardless of abundant requests and advocacies by non-state actors, both locally and internationally, to persuade the governments of Thailand and Malaysia to provide protection to refugees, the fate of these refugees remain uncertain. One of the key limitations for the human rights protection of the refugees is that both countries did not sign the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, moreover, both Thailand and Malaysia do not treat the refugee issue as a domestic problem. This paper examines the detention of refugee children in Malaysia and Thailand with the main intention to advocate for the method of Alternatives to Detention (ATD) as a solution to the shortcomings in a legal method. Based on that, this paper first explores the human rights situation of refugee children in detentions by looking into the current detention practices of both countries. Secondly, this paper examines the strategies and tactics of how the local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) advocate and convince their governments to adopt the approach of ATD.
Anonymous. (2017, 2 November) International Detention Coalitions (IDC).
Anonymous. (2018, 7 March) Ministry of Home Affairs Malaysia.
Arshad, Amer Hamzah. “Refugees in Malaysia: Malaysia’s forgotten children” (2005) 25:5 Aliran Monthly, online:
Asylum Access. “Our Programs: Thailand”, online: Asylum Access
B Çetinkaya, Lokman. “Application of the Concept of Necessity to Justify the Establishment of Safe Zones to Prevent Large-Scale Refugee Outflows” in (2017) 25.
Bradley, Megan. “Unresolved and Unresolvable? Tensions in the Refugee Regime” (2019) 33:1 Ethics and International Affairs 45.
Button, L. Unlocking Childhood: Current immigration detention practices and alternatives for child asylum seekers and refugees in Asia and the Pacific (Save the Children, 2017).
Chawarangkul, C. (2017, 28 November) Asylum Access Thailand,.
Evan. “Joint Statement: Thailand Government MoU on Alternatives to Detention for Children | APRRN”, (2019), online:
FortifyRights. “Thailand: Provide Legal Status, Protections for Refugees”, (6 July 2017), online:
Francis, Angus & Rowena Maguire. Protection of Refugees and Displaced Persons in the Asia Pacific Region (Routledge, 2016).
Human Rights Watch. “Thailand: Refugee Policies Ad Hoc and Inadequate”, (13 September 2012), online: Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch. “Two Years With No Moon | Immigration Detention of Children in Thailand”, (1 September 2014), online: Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch. “Thailand: Implement Commitments to Protect Refugee Rights”, (6 July 2017), online: Human Rights Watch
IDC. “Urgent Need for No Child Detention Policy in Thailand”, (22 November 2017), online: International Detention Coalition
Jalil, H. “Pilot project to allow Rohingya UNHCR card holders work legally to begin from March: Zahid”, The Sun Daily (2 February 2017), online:
Jones, E. (2017, 27 August ).
Kaur, Amarjit & I Metcalfe. “Introduction: Refugees and Refugee Policies in the Asia-Pacific region.” (2008) Nos.12-19 UNEAC Asia Papers 1.
Khairi, Aizat. “The Dilemma of Rohingya Refugees âBoat Peopleâ: The Role of Malaysia, its Neighbors and ASEAN” (2016) 6 International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences.
Lee, G. (2018, 31 January ) Local Advocacy Groups in Malaysia.
Lefevre, A S. “Thailand’s new labor rules send thousands of migrant workers fleeing”, Reuters (3 July 2017), online:
Mala, D. “Cell Conditions”, Bangkok Post (8 July 2018), online:
Nah, Alice M. “Networks and norm entrepreneurship amongst local civil society actors: advancing refugee protection in the Asia Pacific region” (2016) 20:2 The International Journal of Human Rights 223.
Nambiar, D. (2018, 16 January) Local Advocacy Groups in Malaysia.
OHCHR. There Are Alternatives (OHCHR, 2011).
OHCHR. List of issues and questions in relation to the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Malaysia (OHCHR, 2017).
Ophelia, Field. Alternatives to Detention of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, Legal and Protection Policy Research Series POLAS/2006/03 (UNHCR, 2006).
Parinya, A. (2018, 3 February) CRSP Thailand.
Santiago, C. (2017, 28 November) Refugee Children in Detention.
Smith, M. “Rights In Exile”, (2011), online:
Sooktawee, S. (2018, 12 January) Local Advocacy Groups in Thailand.
SUHAKAM. “Annual Report 2014”, (2014), online:
Supaat, Dina Imam. “Refugee Children Under The Malaysian Legal Framework” (2014) 5 UUM Journal of Legal Studies 111.
Taylor, S. “Refugee Protection in the Asia Pacific Region | Rights in Exile Programme”, (2018), online:
The Commissioner of Law Revision. “Immigration Act 1959/63”, (2006), online:
UNHCR. “Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees”, (2010), online:
UNHCR. “UNHCR Global Tends”, (2016), online:
UNHCR. “Asia and the Pacific”, (2018), online:
UNHCR Thailand. “UNHCR Thailand”, (2018), online: UNHCR Thailand
UNICEF. Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNICEF, 1989).
Yitmen, Şenay & Maykel Verkuyten. “Positive and negative behavioural intentions towards refugees in Turkey: The roles of national identification, threat, and humanitarian concern” (2018) 28:4 J Community Appl Soc Psychol 230.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.