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A Rohingya is loaded onto a van in a crush of police today

Captive Rohingya Riot North of Phuket: Police, Immigration in Standoff

Thursday, August 8, 2013
PHANG NGA: Police with batons surrounded Rohingya men this afternoon when they refused for four hours to go back to their cells at an Immigration centre north of Phuket.

Scores of reinforcements were called in when the men staged a protest because they were denied permission to pray as a group to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Thirty-five women and children, who had travelled from a nearby family shelter with a feast to mark the occasion, were turned away when they arrived at the Immigration centre in Phang Nga Town.

When Phuketwan reporters arrived, reinforcements armed with batons were joining others already at the centre. Police were called in from Krabi and Phuket.

With some Rohingya men still visible on the second floor through a wire grille, chanting could be heard occasionally.

A water truck that had been used to try to drive the Rohingya back inside with a high-pressure hose was just departing when the Phuketwan team arrived.

Officials at the centre were waiting for for a translator, so the situation could be explained to the Rohingya.

It's understood that the protest began when a request for the men to pray together outdoors was refused. Two-hundred-and-sixty-one men are being held at the centre in cramped conditions.

A Phuketwan reporter, using a translator in Bangkok speaking via a mobile telephone and a loudhailer, managed to quieten the protest for a time.

The plan was to move some of the most agitated men to other detention centres about 3pm.

About 200 police reinforcements arrived with more police trucks. By 3.30pm, there were probably 500 police surrounding the central Immigration building.

Movement began about 3.40pm when Rohingya were moved through crowds of police to waiting trucks. They were being taken to smaller police stations, it's believed, although that could not be confirmed.

The standoff appeared to be over.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights spokeswoman Vivian Tan said the Thai centres were not designed to hold ''so many people for so long''.

''While the motives for this incident are still unclear, it reflects the growing frustration among the Rohingya being held in detention,'' she said.

The Rohingya in Phang Nga are among about 2000 Rohingya men, women and children being held in Thailand pending a decision by the Thai Government on their status and future.

Most of them were rescued from people-traffickers' camps or apprehended on passing boats in January.

Phuketwan was the only Phuket news organisation with a team of reporters at the protest today.

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