http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2009/09/03/national/national_30111356.php

 Lawyers oppose Ranong’s plan to shut nurseries for Burmese kids

By Boonluen Prompratarnkul
The Nation
RANONG
Published on September 3, 2009

The Lawyer’s Council of Thailand has objected to plans by officials in Ranong and the Education ministry to take over 13 nurseries, where 2,000 Burmese children are being educated.

The council’s sub-panel on human rights for migrant workers and stateless people objected plans to disband the nurseries on the grounds they were useful in providing education and keeping data on children who faced repatriation in the future.

The Basic Education Commission was planning to take over the nurseries, which had been set up by non-government groups, it was revealed.

The Ranong Governor, meanwhile, has a plan to repatriate the 2,000 Burmese youths and has ordered that 96 schools in the province be checked to see if they have Burmese kids who entered Thailand illegally, who should be repatriated.

Surapong Kongchantuk, vice president of the Lawyers Council sub-panel, voiced opposition to local officials’ plan to disband the 13 Thai-Burmese “quality of life development centres” during a visit yesterday to help Ranong business people understand how to submit information about migrant workers to the national identity process.

“All countries around the world give importance and protection for children under 10, thus the province’s plan to repatriate children going to these centres is probably against international policies, thus it could backfire on Thailand,” he warned.

Surapong said the council wanted the centres to remain and for Thai authorities to supervise them. He said he had helped the Education Ministry draft regulations on supervising and managing education at Thai-Burmese centres around the country. This was done to allow local Basic Education offices to investigate now each centre was run, and especially the teaching and learning.

He stressed that educating children was different to them obtaining Thai nationality.

He said it would be better if the Burmese kids were included in the education system as that would reduce social problems and make it easier for them to be repatriated, because local authorities would have data about them.

Ranong Governor Wanchat Wongchaichana said he had asked to meet the committee coordinating the centres to find a way to stop any more being set up, because such “extensions” were seen as unnecessary.

Recent moves to register migrant workers had resulted in many people being repatriated, so many kids would also have to return to their home country with their parents, he said.

Officials would check on the centres and order them to be disbanded if any centre was deemed unnecessary, he said. They would also prepare to repatriate the 2,000 children, most of who entered Thailand illegally with their parents.

He said they would check 96 schools in the province to see if children entered the country illegally, so they could be sent back.

The nurseries set up in Ranong for migrant workers’ children have mostly been organised by non-government groups. They have mushroomed because centres have been set up in places where workers had just 20-30 kids.