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Injured Rohingya being treated at the spot where the pickup overturned today

Hunt For 300 Boatpeople Hidden on Island North of Phuket After Traffickers' Pickup Crashes

Sunday, December 21, 2014
PHUKET: The emergence of two Rohingya boatpeople from jungle north of Phuket early today prompted a hunt for as many as 300 people reportedly hidden on an island off the coast.

As authorities pursued a lead in their human trafficking investigation, a pickup carrying 19 Rohingya south to the border with Malaysia overturned, leaving 11 with serious injuries.

The vehicle slid off a wet road on a curve in Phattalung province, scattering injured boatpeople into a ditch about 8am. The driver fled, police said. The injured were taken to nearby hospitals.

According to sources, the pickup was one of three trucks carrying Rohingya south at a fee that one Rohingya said was 60,000 baht a head.

Earlier today, a Rohingya appeared out of the jungle at a checkpoint on the main road south from the border province of Ranong through Phang Nga and on to Phuket or Krabi.

The checkpoint was set up in October by Takuapa district officials who with local residents want to put an end to human trafficking through Thailand.

The first Rohingya man appeared out of the jungle about 3.30am and a second man emerged about 5am.

The men said they has been on board a boat from a town near Sittwe in Rakhine state with about 300 men, women and children.

The vessel had stayed at sea for about a month - the journey usually takes a few days - before they were carried ashore and hidden on an island off Thailand. Hundreds of islands, hidden among mangroves, pepper the Andaman Sea coast.

The Rohingya said they were kept on the island for 17 days before being trucked south overnight.

Knowing that local authorities had set up a human trafficking checkpoint near Takuapa, the people in the trucks were offloaded before the checkpoint then made to walk across a hilly range to rejoin the trucks on the other side.

The two men decided they'd had enough and escaped in the dark, despite what they reported was the presence of three armed Thai guards.

The men claimed people had been tortured and beaten while being held in the secret island camp.

With conditions in towns and refugee camps in Burma (Myanmar) intolerable, the men had been enticed onto the boat by the prospect of jobs in Malaysia. Once on board the boat, they said, they realised they were captives.

The local community campaign in Takuapa to end human trafficking has spread to neighboring districts and focused the attention of authorities in Bangkok on the need to look more closely at the flow of thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis through Thailand's Andaman coast provinces to the Malaysian border.

Those who have survived the secret jungle camps near the border say rapes, abuse and beatings are commonplace.

Some captives die from prolonged exposure to the elements or suffer debilitating complaints from poor diet that leave them unable to walk without help.

When authorities raid camps, those who cannot flee quickly on foot are abandoned. Tighter checks have led to camps going further into the jungle and guards being more heavily armed, sources say.

Thailand was downgraded to Tier 3 in the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons report earlier this year. A genuine change in attitude could see Thailand rise from the bottom rung within three years.

Comments

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This boatpeople thing is going on and on. Does Prime Minister General Prawut actually knows about all this? I never hear General Prawut talking about it in his Friday evening conference. Does the General knows that there are THAI people cash 60,000 a head Rohingya just by driving them through Thailand? When is the Prime Minister paying attention to this human misery? To me it would have more priority than the rice matter of the past. That is just rice. This is about humans!

Posted by Kurt on December 21, 2014 18:52

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Is there such level as Tier 4 on which Thailand can be more and more downgraded?

Posted by Kurt on December 21, 2014 19:02

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When will the suffering abuse and exploitation of these people end ?

There is not even a hit of humanity in the actions of the abusers and the Government turns a blind eye.

Posted by Herbert on December 21, 2014 19:08

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Keep up the good work Phuket Wan. No one else seems to print these stories.

Posted by Smithy on December 22, 2014 00:10


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