Domestic Violence on the Thai-Burma Border: International Human Rights Implications

Thursday, May 1, 2003
Caroline Lambert and Sharon Pickering
South Eastern Asia

Women from Burma who live in the camps along the Thai-Burma border are increasingly coming into contact with the concept and practice of women's human rights. For many women, learning about rights is a significant part in the process of recognising
experiences of injustice and accessing remedies or protection. While levels of awareness are increasing, however, the effects of such change are limited to the women themselves. Indeed, among the women we spoke with, there was a recognition that adopting a human rights framework could be detrimental to women, placing them at risk of family and community disapproval. In addition, as the women are without legal status in relation to the Thai state, the primary dependence of human rights mechanisms on the nation state for the realisation of human rights further diminishes their usefulness as a means of remedy or protection.

Discussion of international human rights has brought a number of gains for women living in the camps on the Thai-Burma border, particularly relating to increasing women's individual and shared empowerment. However, these gains are significantly challenged
by the lack of state responsibility. There is a need for NGOs and UN agencies to take a stronger and clearer role in relation to issues of domestic violence, and be made more accountable for both the camps and the levels of domestic violence in the camps.

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Lambert, Pickering, Domestic Violence on the Thai-Burma Border: International Human Rights Implications, 2003