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The 73 Rohingya are being taken back to the Burma border by truck

Phuket Boat Families Trucked Back to Burma Border in Tears

Wednesday, January 2, 2013
PHUKET: A group of Rohingya boatpeople who ran out of fuel as they passed Phuket on a voyage seeking a new life were being trucked back towards Burma in tears this afternoon.

Once the formalities of their expulsion were concluded, the 73 adults and children boarded two trucks and left Phuket Immigration headquarters in Phuket City at 4pm.

The group included 14 females, some of them among the 16 children. There were 10 children under the age of 10, including three just three years old.

It was the first time family groups have been sighted, with thousands of oppressed Rohingya now taking to the sea in record numbers.

The decision was made last night to treat the Rohingya group as though they had landed in Thailand. They had been intercepted at sea off southern Phuket after their boat's motor ran out of fuel.

The trip to Ranong, a port on the border with Burma, will take four hours.

The group were treated with compassion by Navy officers and local police who recognised that the children especially were at risk in making such a perilous journey in an open boat.

The voyagers had taken 13 days to travel to Phuket from Buthiduang on Burma's northern coast. It was their hope to continue to travel on to Malaysia.

Their chances of being ''helped on'' were good until it was decided the children should not be placed at such great risk.

Phuketwan supplied the group with water, milk, snacks, biscuits and chocolates before they departed this afternoon.

The group was transferred from the ricketty boat, just a few hundred metres from Rawai, about 1am today.

Two large families contain all the children. Nine of them belong to two sisters, travelling with one husband and nine children.

The other family consists of a mother, a father and their seven children.

It's not known what will happen to the group once they reach Ranong. Rohingya cannot go back to Burma because they are not citizens, and not wanted there, yet some families have lived in Rakhine state for hundreds of years.

Most Rohingya sent back to Ranong end in the hands of people traffickers who organise for them to travel south again in a boat, provided they can pay a new fee. Others are forced to work to raise the money.

The reason for the tears today was because, as the leader of the group said yesterday: ''Our families put to sea because there is no hope in Burma. If we stay, we will die.''

Asean countries close to Burma - Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia - have opted to deal with the problem of thousands of Rohingya putting to sea rather than insisting Burma end its racist intolerance.

Thousands of Rohingya homes have been torched since so-called ''community violence'' broke out in June.

The reason why women and children are now travelling on Rohingya boats is because they no longer have homes to stay in.

At least 20,000 Rohingya are expected to have set out for sanctuary by sea before this October-April ''sailing season'' ends.

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Call me whatever names you wish, but my sympathy just ran out for these oppressed people, because of two paragraphs. "Two large families contain all the children. Nine of them belong to two sisters, travelling with one husband and nine children.

The other family consists of a mother, a father and their seven children."

If you have nothing, why make children to share in that emptiness of your lives? Communism at it's best, you have nothing and want to share it with the rest of the world. Now the picture becomes clearer, a country helps two, they breed like rabbits, next thing you know...you have to help nine people. Send them right back from whence they came from, nobody needs them.

Posted by DuncanB on January 2, 2013 17:36

Editor Comment:

Perhaps you should do a little research on your own family tree, Duncan. In the West, there have been times when large families were encouraged - eight, 10, 12, the larger the better, whether rich or whether dirt poor. We don't call people names, however let me say that you do seem to suffer from a superiority complex that appears to be undeserved.

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Another local online news reports about this issue that phuket governor claimed the group asked to be repatriated by themselves. Is PW aware of such claim ?

Posted by paul on January 2, 2013 18:04

Editor Comment:

The Governor explained this morning why the boatpeople could not be allowed to continue their journey by sea. He was speaking in response to a question from a Phuketwan reporter. Someone else at the meeting said they had already been sent back, which at that stage wasn't true. We checked. The tears this afternoon reveal they didn't want to go back.

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Sounds like Pk authorities/navy tried to give genuine help, but someone stopped it. Heartbreaking to think what will happen to these people.

Duncan B - I do call names - you're an ignorant twat with your head up your arse. Open your narrow narrow mind, dickhead. Give me an 'M'. Give me an 'o'. Give me a 'derated'.

As for requesting to be sent back to their own country where their own countrymen and army want them obliterated - to the extent that the lives of 3 yr olds are risked because its safer than staying in Burma. I don't reckon.

Posted by James on January 2, 2013 19:15

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As usual, PW has the balls to report the facts, where as the other major English language outlet toes the official line.

That said, it's heartbreaking to imagine how they must be feeling now. 2 weeks of hardship and suffering, then a glimmer of hope, only be dashed by being sent back to the predators.

Great job Phuket, what a show of compassion to start the new year with.

Posted by Andrew on January 2, 2013 20:03

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DuncanB people have children for many reasons. I don't know where you are but one of the reasons you might also consider if in a country where there are limited benefits for the elderly children can provide financial assistance. Open your mind up and maybe you might be less ignorant.

Posted by Happy Farang on January 2, 2013 21:30

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Ed, why did you not print my other comment?

Posted by Happy Farang on January 2, 2013 21:52

Editor Comment:

We've published all recent comments from this email address. If you are complaining about a comment sent from another email address, you are trying it on, Happy Farang.

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It does appear that their resident country, Myanmar, their descendant country Bangladesh, Asean countries, the UN seem to have little interest in helping these people or at the very least aschieving any postive results for them. Even in the Middle East where there is often fighting and wars minorities get more attention. This is very strange.

Posted by Happy Farang on January 2, 2013 22:44

Editor Comment:

The Rohingya say they are from Burma and have lived there for centuries. Why do you describe Bangladesh as ''their descendant country''? Do you support the false claims of the Burmese government in backing the racists in Rakhine state?

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Ed, your obviously want to help these people but your attitude is terrible. Glad you are not at the UN.

Posted by Happy Farang on January 3, 2013 00:25

Editor Comment:

You may think our ''attitude is terrible,'' Happy Farang, whatever that is supposed to mean. Burma wants the Rohingya obliterated and your references to Bangladesh and the Middle East are what the racists want to read, as the UN could tell you.

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Thank you James.

Maybe it is cheaper to try again from Burma, then getting handed over to these agents. Otherwise makes no sense at all.

But not easy for Phuket and Thailands authorities. Glad I am not in their shoes. And again in this mess the Royal Thai Navy looks like a institution of high moral conduct. It only ends before the beaches...

Posted by Lena on January 3, 2013 00:38

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... they couldn't have given them fuel and sent them on there way ? If I was the capt of that boat that intercepted them I would have helped them to continue on there way considering the genocide that has been going on in Burma of these people .. I can't imagine they will be treated with much love by Burmese authorities ... I knew many guys when I was in the military that went against da rules to help others Lena ..
I guess people here have never heard of the Berlin Wall ... maybe we should have handed the people who escaped back to the communists ..

Posted by da capT on January 3, 2013 10:42

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I have to kind of agree with DuncanB, if life is hard, try not to make it harder by breeding children you cannot afford and will have to suffer the heartache of seeing them suffer with you.
On the other hand, they could not be let off to sea with new supplies due to the conditions of the boat.

It's sad, and even more when children are involved.

Posted by May on January 3, 2013 12:13

Editor Comment:

Population control for the poor? Do I have to tell you where that leads next, May?
How many in your family?

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I'm not saying a government controlled population control. Just saying as an individual thought, if I am having a hard life and it's likely to get harder, I would be thinking twice about having kids. Then again, where would they get their birth control from since they probably cannot afford it nor are educated enough to think that far? It's a damn vicious cycle....

Posted by May on January 3, 2013 17:16


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