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Reporter Chutima Sidasathian records the passenger's plaintive request

We Beg for Your Help, Says Thirsty Boy

Wednesday, May 13, 2015
BANGKOK: An exhausted refugee on a stranded boat told Phuketwan today that life is slowly ebbing from the men, women and children on the ship, one of seven boats unwanted by the nations of South East Asia.

The person answered the telephone call today with a weakened voice: ''As-Salam alaykum,'' (hello) he breathed. His voice was barely audible and he spoke in the Rohingya language.

Through a translator, he said: ''There are 400 of us on board. Some are already dead, but I cannot tell you how many because I do not have the strength to move around the ship.

''We have been at sea for a month.

''This is a Thai trawler, modified to carry people. We are not sure where we are. We have used up most food and water.

''We beg for your help.''

Phuketwan rigged a connection between mobile telephones that was enabling the 15-year-old passenger, in a faint voice, to relay what information he knew about the fleet of seven vessels to an activist who speaks Rohingya.

The boy gave his name as Abdul Rahamad. Sea and wind could be heard as he spoke.

''The boat has about 400 people on board,'' he said. ''Thai and Myanmar brokers [the regional term for traffickers] were on the boat when we left Myanmar one month ago.

''We have been out of food and water for 10 days. When I last heard a figure, there had been 22 deaths on board. It's very crowded.

''The Myanmar Navy came and damaged the motor of the boat so that it could not work. The two brokers left on a small boat that picked them up and took them away.

''I can see the mountains on an island. It looks about an hour away. We must still be in reach of land.

''Many people are exhausted and unable to move. There is no energy on this ship.''

Q: Are there many other boats nearby?

''Yes, we see plenty of other boats. But none of them come to help.''

Q: What are conditions like on the boat? Can you tell me?

''We expect there will be more deaths and that they will come more quickly now.''

Q: Where did you get the telephone from?

''There were three mobile phones on the boat. The Thai broker bought simcards to make sure we could contact relatives to demand ransom.''

Q: How come you still have battery power?

''We have been using them one at a time. So we still have a little power left. Before the engine was wrecked, we could use that to recharge the telephones.''

Q: What do you think will happen next?

''We are adrift and we do not know what will happen next. Now all we can is wait for help. We do not know whether we will die in the middle of nowhere,

''Other boats do not stop. Nobody cares.''

Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, which assesses the numbers of departing boats and interviews survivors, said she had been in touch with a different boat yesterday.

''It was distressing,'' she said today. ''I could hear people yelling in the background, asking for food and water.''

That boat had 350 on board. There were 84 children and 50 women, Ms Lewa said she was told.

''I was told there had been many deaths but sometimes people exaggerate if they really need help,'' she said. ''We would like to see them rescued as soon as possible.

''The question is, who will rescue them?''

Ms Lewa said the Arakan Project was being contacted by people in Bangladesh, concerned about family members missing on boats.

As many as 8000 people are believed to be stranded because of the more strict attitude being taken by Indonesia and Malaysia following a crackdown on trafficking camps in Thailand.

This report will be updated if more information comes from the ship.

WATCH How Trafficking Works
Phuketwan Investigative reporter Chutima Sidasathian, still being sued for criminal defamation over a Reuters paragraph: ''It's worse and worse, day by day. Nobody cares''.

LISTEN The Rohingya Solution
A tragedy almost beyond words has been unfolding in Thailand, where a human smuggling network is thriving with the full knowledge of some corrupt law enforcement officers. Alan Morison of Phuketwan talks to Australia's AM program.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Dear Phuketwan,
Please do whatever you can to directly contact those who might help with this situation. See if there are any boats in the area that might bring some provisions to the people there. Reporting the story alone is not enough in this case.
You have managed to reach these people and they haven't shared their story for our entertainment but in hope the person they spoke to would be able to help. They don't have much time and by the sound of it, the boy you spoke to might already be dead.
You don't need to publish this comment, just knock on some relevant doors - it might mean a world of difference. Thank you.

Posted by Mitch on May 13, 2015 11:19


With many apps you like LINE you can send your location. Can you communicate this with them?

Posted by phuketgreed on May 13, 2015 12:36


Dear Mitch

This must be a terrible way to perish, surrounded by so many people in the same predicament some of whom are friends and family.

I do not know what Phuketwan would be able to do. It reports the news.

There might be other readers who can do something but I do not have any miracle solutions.

We have all read and heard stories of massive searches conducted for a missing lone hiker or for a missing lone yachtsman. Unfortunately, for these boat people it seems that few if any people in positions of power are willing to help them.

Phuketwan merely has the power to publish the news. I will be saying things you already know Mitch. Do you know any doors to knock on?

Posted by Ian Yarwood on May 13, 2015 13:37


Wishful thinking I'm afraid. To my knowledge PW doesn't have rescue boats and I think the Thai Navy may not be too receptive ...

Burma is sticking 2 fingers up at Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. If they don't have the combined power to persuade Burma to stop the atrocities affecting the region, they really need to ask for help. Of course if it's just a lack of will ...

Telling them 'go back' without tackling the reason they left is not going to work. I see many more deaths before this is resolved ... whatever that may mean.

Posted by James on May 13, 2015 13:37


You have to wonder what type of person(s) could disable an engine knowing what the fate of the people on board will be; especially the women and children.

Why isn't the UN doing something? Place heavy sanctions on all the South East Asian countries responsible and see how they like going without.

This clearly shows the rest of the world that there is NO humanity in Myanmar, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand.

Posted by Graham on May 13, 2015 14:16


The scale on this trafficking operation is unbelievable with at least (no official sources just NGO ) of two to three million illegal workers in Malaysia the traffickers have probably killed many thousands over the years
Let's hope this worldwide media onslaught can actually prompt the powers that be into serious action
All countries in surrounding area have the facilities to rescue them, but they prefer to keep them in international waters so they don't become refugees

So shame on Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore which proudly blows it trumpet with its search and rescue ships with the recent Air Asia crash

And as said before in another article on here Singapore supplies Thailand with information on ship movements

Well done to phuketwan for being a small gear but vitality important let's hope the authorities drop your silly charges, they will look idiot's when the world's media report on it which if it comes to it hope they do all camera's and everything

Posted by Michael on May 13, 2015 16:50


Phuketwan merely has the power to publish the news. I will be saying things you already know Mitch. Do you know any doors to knock on?

Posted by kquotes on May 13, 2015 18:47


I doubt the phones they have are smart phones. So APP's wont work.

You need to get the phone number traced, so it can tell you which tower it is in contact with. Also if they are close to the land then it would be easy to find once you know which Cell Tower they used.

My heart feels for them

Posted by Tbs on May 13, 2015 19:07


I have said although trying to help the problem needs to be resolved with Myanmar and Bangladesh. If we look at Europe just today people are suggesting each country take migrants from Africa arriving by boat, but a deal has to be done with Bangladesh and Myanma as it is mainly their issue.

Posted by How? on May 13, 2015 19:34



Most GSM towers, depending on the law of the country and opertaor, do locate phones, no need for data transmission capability of the phone, or more advanced geolocation etc. functions.

Posted by Sue on May 13, 2015 21:51


Ian Yarwood

I forwarded today the article to UNHCR global office - we may assume that official wisemen know that all, but who knows, it still can be an extra drop of information that help to trigger an action

Posted by Sue on May 13, 2015 23:02



You have to wonder what type of person(s) could disable an engine knowing what the fate of the people on board will be


you should read today revelations by The Guardian on the EU plans to destroy migrants boats - although no engines cut-offs, but very close to that:

Posted by Sue on May 13, 2015 23:10


Hi once again Mitch

If you are following this site you will have noticed that in the past 24 hours this story was picked up by Fairfax Media.

Phuketwan performs an important role but it does not have the resources to conduct search & rescue operations.

Posted by Ian Yarwood on May 14, 2015 10:10


Just a quick question.

Why are these refugees heading to Malaysia and Indonesia via Thailand?
Wouldn't Bangladesh be easier? Same religion, same language.

If fleeing persecution, wouldn't it make more sense as it's a lot closer. Also, these refugees must know that they are getting turned back, yet, they still try.

Why don't they try India and Bangladesh?

Posted by Sir Burr on May 14, 2015 11:02

Editor Comment:

Many of them are from Bangladesh.


Sir Burr,

1. Bangladesh expressily denies accepting Rohingya from Myanmar , moreover it is overpopulated country with extreme poverty, continuous political instability - it has close to zero economic capacity to accept migrants, and its political decision making is quite handicapped .

2. Have you heard abt India/Pakistan partition - that had only one reason: India for Hindus, Pakistan for Muslims, and the largest ever resettlement of ppl then , when Muslims from India moved into Pakistan ,and Hindus vice versa? India probably not very welcome place for Rohingya

3. There is mix of economic refugees and genuine asylum seekers. It's clear that Bangladeshi to big extent are going for such trips merely for economic reasons.

Posted by Sue on May 14, 2015 11:59

Editor Comment:

Once on board, though, even the Bangladeshis departing for economic reasons became involuntary victims of human traffickers.


Human Rights at Sea is following this issue very closely and currently working with regional organisations and news teams to assist in locating this and other vessels. HRAS admires the reporting in this case and has been able to verify similar information and reporting through other sources also speaking directly with victims on the boats. Our thoughts are with these people in distress at sea whatever their nationality or status.

Posted by Human Rights at Sea - London on May 14, 2015 12:25


Human Rights at Sea must be exceptionally busy at this time! They have an interesting website and have reprinted the Phuketwan article on their news page.

Posted by Ian Yarwood on May 14, 2015 13:04

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