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A Red Cross sea search and rescue volunteer recovers a Rohingya body

Boatpeople Deaths North of Phuket: Navy Probably Trafficked Hundreds And Sank Boats, Say Villagers

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
PHUKET: Villagers who say as many as 20 Rohingya boatpeople drowned or were shot in an incident sparked by the Royal Thai Navy today welcomed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's offer to investigate the needless deaths.

The villagers, now prepared to be named and to respond to an open inquiry, have also widened their allegations to claim that in recent months, Navy sailors have scuttled many Rohingya boats and taken hundreds of passengers to unknown destinations.

Today's fresh claim fuels allegations that members of the Thai military have been active participants in people-trafficking north and south of the holiday island of Phuket.

On Monday night at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand annual dinner in Bangkok, Ms Shinawatra intimated that she would investigate claims made about the Thai military. The latest allegations make such an investigation essential.

Phuketwan has spoken at length to eight members of the community of Hinlad village, near the port of Kuraburi on the Andaman Sea, and been supplied with video and still images that support their claims that defenceless boatpeople were shot or drowned in a breach of military discipline before dawn on February 22.

All of the people we spoke to today are loyal Thai citizens. As a group, they are disturbed by what they have heard and what they have seen lately.

Deputy village chief Aduwat Ahamad is a paramilitary for Thailand's Internal Security Operations Command, which oversees border security. But he said today he had told police and Navy officers: ''In the past, we closed one eye to the people-trafficking that has been going on in secret all along the coast. But I cannot stay silent with the deaths of innocent Muslims. My heart is broken by this slaughter.''

Others in the village said they shared Khun Aduwat's distress at the loss of the lives of the Rohingya. The men are mostly still missing - only two bodies were recovered and buried, one with suspected gunshot wounds to the head.

Four men who were on the Rohingya boat had been sheltered in the village since, with a fifth man who arrived on an earlier boat. All four men said they were among 20 men and boys who jumped into the water after a shot was fired into the air by a Navy sailor. The shot was intended to reinforce an order that the 20 men leave a large boat containing 130 people for a second, smaller vessel.

Fishermen report seeing other bodies among the mangroves around the village district. Red Cross Rescue Service leader Manat Aree told today of pulling in two bodies on February 26 and 27. The bodies were badly bloated and initial reports that one may have been a Westerner meant that all the leading local authorities were notified.

''We would have liked to fetch the other bodies but we could not because we had no money for fuel for our boat,'' Khun Manat said today. Other Red Cross workers provided Phuketwan with photographs of the rescue procedure and of the bodies.

The village Imam, Alit Damchor, said that many Rohingya had come ashore around the Kuraburi district because boatpeople telephoned friends and relatives to say that the people there were tolerant and generous.

''Our direction and the government's direction are totally different,'' he said. ''Our concept of how to treat the Rohingya is also vert different.''

Thais of all backgrounds, sea gypsies and Burmese mix easily around Kuraburi, a prosperous fishing port with none of the intolerance and race-hate within Burma that forces the Rohingya to put to sea on dangerous voyages in increasing numbers.

The Thai government's policy is for the military to ''help on'' boatloads of Rohingya towards Malaysia with food and other essentials - provided they do not land in Thailand.

However, allegations have surfaced that the military is taking the opportunity to be paid by people-smugglers who collect up to 60,000 baht for each person they transfer to Malaysia.

The five Rohingya men who disappeared from the village one night last week are now safe in Malaysia and looking forward to starting new lives, the men have told villagers by telephone.

Human Rights Watch, the New York-based international rights organisation, sent its own investigtors to the village. Today HRW called for an investigation. Phuketwan made a similar call last week.

Television Report from ABC Australia


THE ABC learns of claims that the Thai military shot Rohingya asylum seekers fleeing conflict in western Burma.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-03-08/accusations-thai-military-shot-fleeing-refugees/4562006/

A military vessel connects with a Rohingya boat



Would-be refugees on a beach at Surin island


Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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If what the village headman says is true, (and your report indicates that he has put his name to these allegations), then this is a truly terrible situation which warrants an international investigation, not a Thai investigation/cover-up.

As you may know, I currently live and work in Myanmar, but my home and businesses are in Phuket. As a former police volunteer, I travelled many times to the remote region between Phuket and Ranong after the 2004 tsunami.

Many, many villages and communities in that region are Muslim, and they clearly will be sympathetic to the plight of the Rohingya.

It's difficult for me, (because of my current location) to comment about the situation of these people in Myanmar.

But I have no qualms about putting my name to a demand for international investigation of these allegations.

Simon

Posted by Simon Luttrell on March 13, 2013 20:27

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The normally shining brass of the Thai navy, now looks dull. Time for some polish...?

Posted by OJ on March 13, 2013 20:57

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I would like to thank Phuketwan for keeping this story at the forefront of its publication. This is a truly heinous situation, and the only way it will change is through exposure to more and more people.

Posted by fw on March 14, 2013 02:52

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These reports of trafficking - by people who dare to expose themseleves - are a terrible shame for the Thai army and the nation. Probably some high ranking military chiefs are also in favor of an investigation, but as an international affair. An international investigation is needed.

Posted by Anonymous on March 14, 2013 07:59

Editor Comment:

Speaking of people who dare to expose themselves, anonymous comments have vastly reduced credibility.

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I know this will not be posted, due to your very childish attitude, however, I and maybe others, would like to know why you made such a comment to Anonymous. The name he chooses to use, is NO different than OJ, fw or for that matter Reader and Editor, they are ALL anonymous names.

Posted by Reader on March 14, 2013 08:53

Editor Comment:

And the value of them all is diminished. You fail to get the point as usual, Reader. People who dare to expose themselves are hard to find. Those with no courage and a lot to say are everywhere.

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@Ed, 55, I don't believe you posted my comment, as for people being anonymous, well, if you didn't keep banning people then maybe some would still use their name, besides, how would you know if the name is really, e.g. if I called myself Allen Morrison (spelt incorrectly on purpose) would you know it is me or not? Therefore, it makes NO difference what people call themselves.

Posted by Reader on March 14, 2013 10:17

Editor Comment:

Indeed, unless they use their real names and have a real reputation. That's why your mindless quibbling and inability to add anything to any conversation is such a waste of everybody else's time, Reader. Go chuckle in the mirror.

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I my post above, I meant that some officers at the supreme command may wish that an investigation be done, but unfortunately " not " as an international affair.

Posted by Anonymous on March 14, 2013 10:38

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MMM...mindless quibbling, you are the only one who quibbles about my quibbling, you are the only one who has a PROBLEM, your readers don't seem to mind, I think maybe your readers find my "quibbling" more enlightening that your bigoted quibbling.

Posted by Reader on March 14, 2013 11:21

Editor Comment:

Fat chance, Reader. The only person you kid is yourself.

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'Navy Probably Trafficked Hundreds'

Is this balanced journalism publishing hearsay from one source/village????? where is your proof?

Posted by Ian on March 14, 2013 12:32

Editor Comment:

It's an accusation made by someone who has been working with the military in the region for years, Ian. We are quoting someone mentioned in the story. I don't think you can comprehend what you read.

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You told me above : " Speaking of people who dare to expose themselves, anonymous comments have vastly reduced credibility" I agree with you , on the other hand , technically speaking, one could write articles in a newspaper " located " in Phuket while staying abroad, and use a pseudonym while local staff would do the job : the credibilty lies first in the value of the writing; the name of the author does not matter much.

Posted by still anonymous on March 14, 2013 13:49

Editor Comment:

Now you are really proving how little anonymous comments are worth, still anonymous. Total crap. I guess you buy books by anonymous people and watch movies starring anonymous actors, too.

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I was just saying : don't link too strongly credibilty to publicity; indeed you could "publicly" be the author of investigations in a local newspaper while staying abroad behind a computer no one would know. The name you use to sign would not make a difference. However if I buy a movie starring Robert de Niro and I see a sosie, I will know it.

Posted by my sosie on March 14, 2013 15:16

Editor Comment:

As you've changed sign-offs eight times, it's pointless expecting other readers to follow your train of thought. If you use the word ''I'' you should at least try for consistency.

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One of the more interesting differences between print and online media is online media simply has to click a few buttons for a story to disappear, whereas print needs to issue a retraction on false sensationalistic headlines such as "Rohinga Missing from Village"

Posted by Media watcher on March 16, 2013 09:37

Editor Comment:

How little you know about the media, Media Watcher. Please tell us more. So far, you have failed to get to the point. Are you making a foolish and false accusation, or more than one?


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