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Rohingya women and children arrive at the Khao Lak shelter

Boatpeople Escape Shelter North of Phuket

Friday, May 9, 2014
PHUKET: A group of nine Rohingya women and children fled by climbing down sheets from a bedroom within 48 hours of arriving at a family shelter north of Phuket last week.

The nine escapers were simply making their way along the ''human trafficking superhighway'' that runs through Thailand, according to US Congressman Chris Smith.

Stalled on the superhighway at present are more than 1000 Rohingya being held in Thai government family shelters or Immigration detention centres. Hundreds more are thought to still be in secret jungle camps in southern Thailand.

The nine escapers, who most likely fled into the arms of traffickers, were part of a group of 29 transferred from southern Thailand to the province of Phang Nga, north of Phuket, because of overcrowding.

Escapes have been frequent and traffickers living in the surrounding community at Khao Lak, a popular holiday spot, often bid for customers.

Sources with connections in Bangladesh and northern Burma say the Rohingya boats are leaving Burma with increasing frequency now, despite the onset of the dangerous monsoon season.

But what happens between the departure and the arrival of the boatpeople in southern Thailand remains a mystery.

Explanations are being sought by journalists, and by Thailand's Immigration Division 6 Commander, Police Major General Thatchai Pitaneelaboot.

He has ceased deporting Rohingya back to Burma (Myanmar) because he realises that the majority who are trucked from southern Thailand to Ranong, on the Thai-Burma border, are quickly embraced by traffickers and shipped south again.

Meanwhile, in the secret jungle camps where the Rohingya are hidden until they can raise the money to pay their way across the border to Malaysia, illness and death remain rife.

Phuketwan recently interviewed a young Rohingya who says he fled a jungle camp after burying 13 fellow inmates.

The women and children who arrived at the shelter north of Phuket last week were all thin and in poor condition. They were taken to a local hospital for health checks.

Boats are sometimes delayed waiting for passengers, so those who board in northern Burma can have spent more than three weeks in cramped holds before arriving in Thailand.

The conditions in the jungle camps are even worse, which accounts for increasing numbers of deaths.

Yesterday came reports that the detainees at one Immigration centre in southern Thailand had gone without eating for two days because the meals they were served were not halal.

Lack of a transparent national policy to either halt the human trade through Thailand or to treat the boatpeople humanely leaves the Rohingya open to abuse and Thailand open to criticism.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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I have great sympathy for the Rohingya but on hearing that they are willing to die rather than eat non-halal food starts to take the shine off their cause. If they worship a god that is so unforgiving as to let his worshipers die for such a small infraction then they should change religions and might be less persecuted.

Posted by Ermuffs on May 9, 2014 11:58

Editor Comment:

Some people don't blame their god for misfortune, Ermuffs.

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Ed, I know you are very pro these people but a news outlet is meant to reflect both views on a situation. Therefore why has my comment not been published?

Posted by Fiesty Farang on May 10, 2014 11:11

Editor Comment:

Your comment is pure bigotry, FF, and not suitable for publication. It reveals an obsession with money, not justice. Your logic is the same as the police chief who opted not to pursue an Englishman who killed an American in Thailand because Thailand would have to pay the cost of keeping him in jail. I suggest you seek help.

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AM, I respect some of your journalism but please let me correct you:
1st this has nothing to do with the Englishman and American. I don't know what case you refer to.
2nd Yes it does on a pure basis come down to money, realistically you cannot confuse economics with morality especially in developing countries, but I know if I had no money, no food and a country offered me food I would not make demands unless it was my own country. I come from a G7 country. Alan sometimes your comments are very hard. PW is yours as far as I know but any serious journalist knows you should allow debate otherwise......... you are trying to control journalism which you say many times you want to avoid.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on May 10, 2014 20:59

Editor Comment:

FF, humans are capable of moving beyond rationalising everything they do in monetary terms. Whenever humans run into world wars, civil wars or genocides, it's because money and greed have overwhelmed compassion and tolerance. My comments are hard because your comment is pure bigotry. I don't give a fig where you come from or how you imagine you would behave if you were starving and had no food. And no, it doesn't count if you have more supporters. You worry about the money: I worry about the people. Let's leave it at that.

By the way, your comment is not journalism. It's unsubstantiated anonymous opinion, the worst kind.


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