The birthplace of HI, Thailand hosts large numbers of refugees from Myanmar. The organisation works in the refugee camps, providing prostheses to victims of anti-personnel mines and raising awareness of the threat from these weapons, promoting the inclusion of vulnerable people and people with disabilities in their communities and improving the living conditions of children in refugee camps.
Supporting an amputee, Thailand - Humanity & Inclusion | © Erika Pineros / HI
HI was set up in Thailand in 1982 by two French doctors. It started out trying to help the refugees living in camps set up along the border with Cambodia, offering orthopaedic fitting to people with disabilities or those who had lost limbs as a result of landmine accidents. By 1984, HI was also helping refugees from Myanmar, and soon Thailand, who had also fallen victim to anti-personnel landmines. These activities in the country led to the opening of fifteen orthopaedic fitting workshops, which now form part of Thailand’s network of provincial hospitals.
In 1996, the organisation focused its action on nine Burmese refugee camps and on the neighbouring Thai villages. It enhances the self-reliance of people with disabilities by supplying locally-produced prostheses and adapted devices (orthoses, crutches, walkers, special seats, etc.). Physiotherapy is offered to victims of anti-personnel mines, to children with cerebral palsy, and to adults who have suffered a stroke.
HI continues to pursue these actions in five of the nine camps for refugees from Myanmar in Thailand.
Pending the clearance of landmines from the border areas between Myanmar and Thailand, HI is raising refugees’ awareness of the dangers posed by mines and other explosive remnants of war. These awareness-raising actions should reduce the risks they face when they return to Myanmar in the future.
The organisation also runs a social inclusion project for refugees with disabilities from Myanmar, improving their access to the various services on offer in the camps. As a result, people with disabilities now have access to education, vocational training and primary health care.
HI also conducted the project “Growing Together”, supported by IKEA Foundation, which aimed to develop accessible and secure play areas for children in refugee camps in Thailand, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, HI has continued to help the world’s most vulnerable people. We have adapted our interventions in more than 45 countries.
There are more than 109,000 refugees from Myanmar living in Thailand and the route back is littered with vast numbers of anti-personnel mines.
 Number of refugees on the Myanmar/Thailand border, according to The Border Consortium (TBC).
Thailand is one of the main countries hosting asylum-seekers and refugees from Myanmar. Since 1984, the country has seen an influx of people fleeing political violence in Myanmar and, more recently, of economic migrants. However, the situation in Myanmar has evolved since 2011, mainly thanks to political changes in the country, and the number of refugees living in the camps has been declining steadily, but remains high. Living conditions are extremely precarious in the nine camps along the Myanmar/Thailand border, where HI works, especially for people with disabilities. Refugees are heavily reliant on the humanitarian aid provided by international NGOs and local organisations.
Myanmar is beginning to open up, but the border region is still contaminated by countless mines. These weapons constitute a major obstacle to the refugees returning to their country of origin on a voluntary and permanent basis.
Number of HI staff members: 47 staff members and 164 members of teams based in refugee camps.
Date the programme opened: 1982