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Where are they now? Boatpeople before they vanished last week

Where Are Boatpeople? Answers Wanted

Tuesday, November 29, 2011
PHUKET: Human Rights Watch is calling on the Government of Thailand to reveal the whereabouts of a boatload of would-be refugees and explain the Army's role in the unconventional apprehension and detention of the group.

The 92 Rohingya waded ashore on the Thai mainland north of Phuket on Thursday and were last seen being trucked to an unknown destination. Locals were told the men and boys were headed for an Army base.

The deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, Phil Roberson, said yesterday evening: ''We are concerned by these reports and we would like the Government to clearly explain where these people are and what they plan to do with them.''

It was a ''worrisome development'' to have the detention of illegal arrivals in Thailand once again removed from the Immigration authorities who usually handle such matters, he said.

Fresh questions about Thailand's policy towards the Rohingya boatpeople are being raised as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares for a history-making visit to Burma, where the Muslim minority is deprived of citizenship and driven to pay people traffickers to escape by sea.

While the Burmese government wants to chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2014 and has recently shown limited but encouraging signs of reform, its most repugnant policy, under which the Rohingya are denied every basic human right, remains in place.

Burma's denial of Rohingya rights leaves the whole region without a hope of resolving the Rohingya boatpeople issue. Thousands are expected to put to sea between now and April, aiming for neighboring countries, to try to flee Burma's repression.

In 2008-2009, after almost 5000 boatpeople arrived in a single ''sailing season'', Thailand took the covert and drastic measure of towing unwanted Rohingya out to sea and cutting them adrift.

Hundreds drowned before survivors arrived in Indonesia and India's Andaman and Nicobar islands, as Phuketwan and the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong were the first to reveal.

The concern of Human Rights Watch and other international bodies is that the disappearance of the latest batch of unwanted arrivals is a ghastly reminder of that tragic failed policy.

''Thailand needs to produce these people,'' Mr Robertson said. ''Trucking them off into the distance is no answer to this problem.''

There was a whole list of questions about the unexplained detention of the group that needed to be answered to ensure Thailand was meeting its human rights obligations, he said.

The absence of information from the Thai Government was cause for ''very serious concern.''

The latest Rohingya arrivals scuttled their rickety vessel on Thursday and waded ashore near the port of Kuraburi, in Phang Nga province, north of the international holiday island of Phuket.

Local authorities were told the men and boys would be handed to the Army, which has a base in the province of Ranong, further north on the border with Burma.

It was on a small, uninhabited island off the coast near the Army base that Rohingya were first secretly detained in 2009, then towed out to sea and cut adrift.

After that reprehensible treatment was revealed, boatloads were again handed over in the conventional manner to Thai Immigration officials. Immigration detained groups who landed on Phuket and south of Phuket earlier this year.

Because the Rohingya do not have citizenship, they cannot be officially returned to Burma. It is believed groups apprehended in Thailand earlier this year have been surreptitiously returned to the people traffickers.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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They are back were they belong in Burma!

Posted by Niko on November 29, 2011 11:10

Editor Comment:

You have reliable information, do you, Niko? Or are you just being a bigot?

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Editor

i can give you a reliable source! but show me your work permit first!
or maybe you don't have any..

Posted by Kata on November 29, 2011 12:19

Editor Comment:

It's deeply offensive of you to use the tragic treatment of the Rohingya to slither and slide behind your anonymous mask., Kata beachbum weasel. Are you able to be anything except pathetic?

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Rohingya need International protection. Push back and handled is not solution. Rohingya are not animals, they are the same as you. But Rohingya have no human rights. Please rescue us, international community.

Posted by Nurul Hai on November 30, 2011 16:12


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