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Rohingya below deck in a recent Andaman arrest

Boat People 'Aiming for Phuket, Phang Nga'

Saturday, January 17, 2009
Article filed for the South China Morning Post
AUTHORITIES have been warned to expect greater numbers of boat people refugees arriving on Phuket and along the Andaman coast, the jewels of Thailand's tourist industry.

The warnings have come direct from the military as reports of the new and brutalising secret policy of the Thai Army are being read in countries across Europe and Australia, Thailand's tourist heartlands.

The prospect of more Rohingya (Burmese Muslims) being abused in front of large numbers of tourists, as has already been reported in one instance, alarms tourist industry leaders.

This week, with resorts all along the popular Andaman coast still struggling to recover from the aftermath of last year's airport blockade, jellyfish plagued Phuket's most popular beaches for the first time.

The marine creatures will vanish. But the prospect of the bodies of boat people some day soon peppering the golden shores of Thailand's tourism jewel is more concerning, and suddenly very real.

The President of the Ecotourism Association of Phuket, Pakdee Kutanang, said: ''If the tourists happen to be in places where boatpeople are mistreated, it will be disastrous. I can't imagine what might happen.''

More seaborne refugees are expected to arrive in the next few weeks, with the total for this migration period so far around 1000 compared with the tally of 4886 for the last November-April season.

Alarmingly, the circle of local authorities who are usually informed when boat people arrive have not been told about the 46 who turned up on the Andaman coast on Friday.

This is probably because of the secrecy of the Thai Army, which assumed control in early December and now covertly takes delivery of boat people apprehended by the Thai Navy, Marine Police and regular police.

It is believed the 46 have been taken to Koh Sai Dang, the secret Army exile island not far from the increasingly popular ''natural'' tourist destination of Koh Chang, and other bungalow-smattered islands nearby.

Surin island and the coral reefs of the Similan group, one of the world's top diving destinations, are also close.

Rohingya boat people will try to sail further south and are now more likely to be apprehended off Phuket and along the coast near Khao Lak in the neighboring province of Phang Nga, the military has told local officials.

This is because the Rohingya are rapidly becoming aware of naval patrols off Ranong, where the majority of arrests have taken place so far this migration season, senior local authorities have been told.

Just how the new national government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will deal with the issue remains to be seen.

The vast majority of voters and businesses along the Andaman coast have long been wholehearted supporters of his Democrat Party.

Prime Minister Abhisit ascended to power about a week after the army took over responsibility for Rohingya collection, raising the issue of whose decision it was to send boatloads of refugees to drift to their deaths.

Andaman Culture Clash: Tourists and Boat People
The Rohingya imagine a better life beyond the tourist holiday coast to the south and fall into the hands of a branch of the Thai military trained to show no compassion.
Andaman Culture Clash: Tourists and Boat People

Similans Tourists See Boat People Mistreated
Bikinis and brute force
Thailand's Similan islands, one of the world's top dive sites, is now also a destination where tourists may see boat people roughly handled by armed military on the beaches.
Similans Tourists See Boat People Mistreated

How the Andaman Links to Amnesty 'Torture'
Photo Album
Amnesty accusations of 'torture' have an Andaman connection. The holiday coastline from Phuket northwards is now home to a mix of tourists and boat people, as well as locals.
How the Andaman Links to Amnesty 'Torture'

Exclusive: Secret Rohingya 'Exile Island' Revealed
Photo Album
Concern is increasing about the manner in which Rohingya are being secretly turned back to sea off Thailand after first being detained on an Andaman island
Exclusive: Secret Rohingya 'Exile Island' Revealed

In Pictures: Arrest of the Rohingya

Photo Special: Phuket Navy Holds Burmese Muslims
Photo Exclusive
The first astonishing photos of hundreds of Burmese Rohingya attempting to enter Thai waters are on Phuketwan now, as chronicled by the Royal Thai Navy.
Photo Special: Phuket Navy Holds Burmese Muslims

'Starving' Boatloads: Phuket Call for UN Action
World Exclusive
Hundreds of hungry boat people are being apprehended north of Phuket, prompting a call for United Nations intervention. Phuketwan exposes the Andaman's serious human rights issue, the Rohingya.
'Starving' Boatloads: Phuket Call for UN Action

Burmese in Thailand: Essential Reading

Exile Island Plan: 200 Burmese in Jail

Crackdown on Burmese as Arrest Numbers Grow

54 Burmese Found Dead in Phuket Bound Container

Deathship Burmese Muslims Forced Back to Border

Andaman Island Sites Readied for Boat People

Burmese Detention Island Cause for Concern

Water and Fire: A Tsunami Reunion


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Wednesday March 29, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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