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Andaman or Auschwitz? Time to Speak Out

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Hell on a Holiday Coast: Opinion

TOURISM officials and resort managements must understand the importance of the boat people issue being resolved humanely, and rapidly.

If allowed to continue, human rights abuses being perpetrated along the holiday coast could end up making the Andaman notorious, destroying its growing reputation as an appealing destination for tourists.

How many holidaymakers will want to go on diving trips and enjoy other tourist delights in close proximity to where boat people are being cast adrift to die?

Five-star visitors have hearts as well as money.

Online at forbes.com, ''home page for the world's business leaders,'' columnist Robyn Meredith finds a holiday among this horror too much to bear.

The headline ''Shame on Thailand'' is followed by the introduction ''The tourist paradise abuses destitute boat people.''

That succinctly sums it all up. Thailand cannot dodge those 10 words.

Meredith lays it on the line this way: ''The accusations are of unspeakable cruelty, made somehow worse because of the stunning setting.

''As tourists lay prone beneath palm trees on sugar-fine sand, soaking in the sun on Thailand's island paradises, so did other visitors to the country: refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Bangladesh.

''Photographs taken by shocked tourists and other sources show the beginning of the refugees' ordeal, and survivors' accounts detail some of the horrific endings.''

To know this kind of abuse is happening in the neighborhood leaves everyone with a clear choice.

Does one stay silent, take the money, and pretend there is no stench wafting over the horizon from rotting corpses?

Or is the proper course of action to speak out?

Meredith, a weekly columnist on Forbes.com, is in no doubt. She has her hands cupped to her lips.

''Thailand is called 'the land of smiles' because of its tradition of hospitality to tourists,'' she adds. ''But its treatment of the Rohingya visitors is completely unacceptable, as Human Rights Watch has pointed out.

''The Rohingya refugees fled a pariah state - Myanmar. The Thai military must change its apparent treatment of refugees, or Thailand will go from paradise to pariah.''

There is no question that the Rohingya issue has the potential to deposit the dead along beautiful beaches in the Andaman, with the Similans one of the most likely spots.

Does the top brass in the Thai Army really think that the shocking abuses of the Deep South can and should be carried to Thailand's peaceful tourist coast?

This action is actually compromising Thailand's national security, not improving it. These abuses are causing instability in a region of Thailand previously noted for its stability.

Now is a good time for the Andaman-Phuket tourism industry groups to speak out, the way Meredith has done.

Staying silent is not an option.

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Friday October 22, 2021
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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