The United Nations has opened the first of the proposed seven legal assistance centres for tens of thousands of refugees from Myanmar living in neighbouring Thailand with the aim to provide justice to the victims of violence that plague the border camps.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) regional representative Hasim Utkan said the centre at Ban Mae Nai Soi camp in north-western Thailand is the first of its kind "not only in Thailand, but also around the world".
All seven centres, to be funded by Italy and run by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), are scheduled to open over the next year in three camps housing around 70,000 refugees near the border between Thailand and Myanmar.
Thailand, which runs the three camps, does not allow refugees to move freely outside and UNHCR officials are not allowed in the camps overnight, when incidents of violent crimes, especially rapes and acts of domestic violence, occur.
A report from the UN refugee agency indicated that more than 350 serious crimes were reported across the nine camps between 2003 and 2006, with rape and domestic violence the most common and children often the victims.
In four out of five murders, the report added, no arrest was made, even when the identity of the killer was known.