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Branches of the Thai military voluntarily supplied photos to  Phuketwan

Boat People: Military Officials Cleared, says PM

Sunday, May 17, 2009
Hundreds Dead, But Nobody to Blame

PRIME Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has promised ''no repeats'' of the military policy of towing Rohingya boat people out to sea and abandoning them.

But he also said in an interview with the Sunday Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong that internal investigations had cleared the officials involved.

He added that the military unit at the heart of the policy would continue to handle refugee arrivals.

''[The Internal Security Operations Command] will have to handle it but they will have operating procedures that will not repeat this situation where all these allegations happen,'' he told Greg Torode of the Sunday Morning Post.

"We've gone to great lengths to get the facts . . . we established that there had been cases where boats were made to drift to other shores, but I've also been informed in all such cases there was food and water supplied.

''We don't find evidence of the kind of abuses that are alleged, tying people, throwing them into the water.''

Asked if future arrivals would be towed out to sea, Mr Abhisit said: ''No repeats, no repeats, we don't want to see it.

''I think there is now a good understanding among the people responsible that they will have to be very responsible.''

The island where boat people were being held in secret off Ranong province, north of Phuket and Phang Nga, was first revealed by Phuketwan on January 9.

In articles that followed in the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, the secret army policy of towing them to sea in unpowered boats was exposed.

At least 1190 were abandoned and hundreds died, the newspaper discovered. Survivors rescued in Indian and Indonesian waters told horrific tales of starvation and thirst.

In February, the Post submitted a dossier of evidence to Thai authorities in Hong Kong, including photographs of the regional head of ISOC overseeing the secret processing of Rohingya detainees.

The evidence was resubmitted to Mr Abhisit's staff on Friday at his request, Torode wrote. The PM said Thailand was determined to find a regional solution to the issue.

Nothing has been said publicly by Government officials about the Department of Special Investigations probe that was supposed to target the people-traffickers behind the mistreatment of the boat people and others brought down from Burma and Bangladesh.

An expert with an NGO in Kuala Lumpur recently told Phuketwan that boat people are constantly abused and frequently sold across Malaysia's border with Thailand as indentured laborers or, in some cases, as sex slaves.

The relevance of the trade to the holiday island of Phuket became apparent in April last year when 54 illegal Burmese laborers were found suffocated in a container truck bound for the island.

Ironically, revelations of the Thai military push backs of boat people by Phuketwan and the Post appear to have ended the quest by Rohingya to reach Thailand and proceed to Malaysia on foot.

While there are rumors that Thailand now intercepts boat people in international waters, provides additional food and drink, and urges them on to other destinations, Phuketwan has not been able to confirm this as fact.

There have been several occasions on which senior-level politicians from countries affected by the issue of the boat people have met and talked, but no long-term solutions to their plight have been proposed.

With the arrival of the annual monsoons, the so-called sailing season has now ended and will not resume until November.

Phuketwan on Boat People and Burmese

Thailand's UN Pledge: No More Boat People Deaths
Photo Album No more pushing back the boats: that is the guarantee extracted from Thailand by the UN as an international body looks at human trafficking and its tragic outcomes.
Thailand's UN Pledge: No More Boat People Deaths

Human Trafficking: Suffocation, or Solution?
LatestDesperation drives Rohingya, Burmese and others into the hands of human traffickers, putting their lives on the line. The Bali Process this week may provide answers that Thailand needs.
Human Trafficking: Suffocation, or Solution?

Phuket's New Rohingya: Bought from a Smuggler
Latest Phuket's community of Rohingya is small but growing. The latest arrivals have been purchased from a people smuggler in a humanitarian effort by a poor Muslim community.
Phuket's New Rohingya: Bought from a Smuggler

Boat People Update: DSI Pursues Traffickers
Latest People smugglers have now become the centre of an investigation by Thailand's DSI, best known on Phuket for their property title probes. Top level talks are taking place on the Rohingya.
Boat People Update: DSI Pursues Traffickers

Update: PM Admits Boat People Towed to Sea
Latest Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says he believes there were 'instances' of Rohingya boats being pushed out to sea. The word 'atrocities' is used in a headline.
Update: PM Admits Boat People Towed to Sea

More Boat People Arrested, Army Not Involved
Latest Update A change in thinking seems to have been applied to the latest Rohingya arrest of 78 boat people off the Andaman tourist coast. They are in police custody and scheduled to appear in court.
More Boat People Arrested, Army Not Involved

Boat People in Thailand: Phuketwan Reports
Fresh Tourist Snapshots The torment of the Rohingya boat people was brought to the world's attention by Phuketwan. Now we look forward to Thailand restoring its good reputation.
Boat People in Thailand: Phuketwan Reports

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Tuesday September 16, 2014
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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