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Children on the Rohingya boat apprehended off Phuket on January 1

Phuket Boat People: At Sea Again But Not Forgotten

Saturday, January 5, 2013
PHUKET: As Phuketwan has reported, the chief of the regional arm of the Internal Security Operations Command and two other independent sources have confirmed to us that the 73 Rohingya boatpeople apprehended in Phuket this week are now back at sea.

International news agencies have been slow to report this and update the world about the situation.

As a result, the UN and other organisations are still trying to gain a response from the Thai government on the assumption that the men, women and children apprehended off Phuket are still in Thailand.

Below we publish another plea, this one from Malaysia. It should be noted that claims of water sources being poisoned in Burma have yet to be proven. It's also unclear as to levels of malnutrition in the displaced persons' camps.

Letter from Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani via email to

WE, THE MYANMAR Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia condemn the plan of the Thai government to deport 73 Rohingya boat people back to Myanmar.

The Thai government by now should be aware of the plight of Rohingyas in Arakan State [also known as Rakhine State] of Myanmar.

The Thai government and other neighboring countries by now should be aware why the Rohingyas are continuously becoming boat people.

If Rohingya boat people landed on our shores, they must be handed over to UNHCR to access their status and give the necessary assistance.

We are very frustrated as the Thai government fails to observe the ''nonrefoulement'' policy though we know Thailand is not a signatory to 1951 Refugee Convention.

This is not the first time the Thai government is giving bad treatment to the Rohingya boat people. In 2009, the international community was shocked to see how the Thai navy had push back hundreds of Rohingya boat people to the sea without food and water.

The Rohingyas were also abused by the Thai navy. Many of them died at sea as a result of the navy's action. The Thai government was not made accountable for the crime they committed towards stateless Rohingya boat people.

The group of 73 consists of men, children and women. The initial plan of Thai authority to push the boat back to the sea after providing food, water and fuel was seen as inhuman and selfish. They fail to understand our plight back home.

They still want to send us back to the hands that destroy our lives. All the 73 Rohingya are currently waiting for deportation at Ranong province. We do not know how many boats have been push back to the sea by the Thai government and their fates.

We also condemn the act of Singapore government who refused permission to Rohingya boat people to enter Singapore after their boat sank near Bay of Bengal.

They had been in the water for 30 hours before the ship Nosco Victory rescued them on December 5, 2012. An estimated 160 Rohingya are believed to have drowned.

Since October 2011, the media reported few incidents of the sinking boats of Rohingyas which claimed hundreds of lives.

We do not know how many more had died in the sea. We will continue to see more and more Rohingya fleeing to save their lives and families as the situation in Arakan State is worsening.

The international community and world leaders think that the situation in Arakan State is back to normal but the reality is not.

The Myanmar government is continuously killing, raping, arresting, and detaining Rohingya through its security forces.

The Nasaka [border security force] and police forced the Rohingya to confess that they are Bengalis not Rohingya. If they insist that they are Rohingya, they will be arrested and taken to the jail.

In jail, they were beaten badly and some died. Many Rohingya men have been arrested and detained. The security forces demand lots of money in order to be released.

Hundreds or thousands of Rohingyas are stranded in the jail as they do not have money to pay.

The situation in the Rohingya camps is very bad as there are not enough food, water and medical supplies. Hundreds or thousands of Rohingya have died due to severe starvation.

Rohingya source of food have been confiscated by the security forces. The military order the Rohingya to harvest paddy and confiscate them, leaving nothing for them.

In November 2012, we received numerous calls from Buthidaung township reporting that the Rakhines and the security forces have been poisoning the water source for Rohingya villages. An estimated 50 ponds were poisoned by the Rakhines and the security forces.

The Myanmar government uses many ways to eliminate Rohingya from Arakan State. They will not stop until we are removed. The United Nations and the world leaders must open their eyes to the Rohingya's plight as its claims thousands of innocent lives.

The United Nations and the world leaders must deal directly with the Myanmar government without delay and take appropriate measures to end the plight of Rohingya.

A UN peace keeping mission must be sent urgently to control and monitor the human rights violations.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has called on regional countries to keep their borders open to people seeking asylum and provide protection from Myanmar. We appeal to the Asean countries to accept the Rohingya boat people and hand them over to the UNHCR to access their status.

We are thankful to the more humanitarian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia who are willing to accept the Rohingya boat people and not pushing them back to the ses.

Though Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, it still open its heart to help the affected people in the region and in the international arena.

If Malaysia can do so why not Thailand which is the host of many international agencies, including Asean secretary general. [the post is now held by Vietnam, not Thailand.]

The Rohingyas are one of the many ethnic people in the Asean region though we are not recognised by the Myanmar government. Asean must be more responsive and take practical measures to protect its own people.

Everyone has the rights to live in peace and dignity, free from fear and prejudice.We should not use religion to separate us. We as human beings must be able to live in peace though we have many differences.

God shall Bless and protect those who defend the right of their fellow humans.

Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani is president of the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation, Malaysia


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