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Rohingya boatpeople: questions over whether this is a new policy

Phuket Boatpeople Trucked Out as Others Are Loaded into Longtails and 'Given 4000 Baht to Go'

Friday, August 19, 2011
PHUKET: A group of Rohingha boatpeople imprisoned on Phuket since January were trucked to the border port of Ranong today - a day after other would-be-refugees appeared to have been repatriated to Burma in highly unusual circumstances.

The 33 men and boys from Phuket had been kept in cramped conditions in cells at Phuket Immigration headquarters in Phuket City since coming ashore in Phuket in February. Two were said to have difficulty standing up straight when they were loaded onto a police truck today.

All were reported to be pale after more than six months imprisoned with little or no sunlight and exercise.

Their trip north marks what could be a new approach by the incoming Pheu Thai government to a long-standing international issue. Whether it has been done with the knowledge of other members of Asean is not clear.

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority, come from Arakan in north Burma but are not recognised as having citizenship rights in that country. Thailand's policy over the past two-and-a-half years has varied from pushing back the unwanted arrivals in unseaworthy vessels to keeping them in detention indefinitely, without hope of being set free.

But yesterday, Phuketwan has learned, a group of 70 Rohingya were placed in three longtails in Ranong, north of Phuket, each given 4000 baht by a person who said she represented a non-government aid organisation, and allowed to leave Thailand.

Where they go may depend on the people steering the boats. The departure of the three vessels, followed by the four-hour road trip north today by the group who had been captive in Phuket, comes as the new Pheu Thai Government takes over from the Democrat-led government.

What's not plain is whether the Burmese Government is now accepting back Rohingya boatpeople, or whether the three vessels that set off from the Customs pier at Ranong in Thailand yesterday were doing so without the knowledge of the Burmese government.

Adding to the mystery was a report that a woman who handed 4000 baht to each of the 70 boatpeople as they boarded the longtails said that she was a representative from the Jesuit Refugee Service, a highly-regarded Catholic aid group.

A spokesperson for another aid group associated with the Rohingya said it would be uncharacteristic for the Jesuit Refugee Service to be involved in a set of circumstances that appears to leave the Rohingya open to people-trafficking.

However, changes in many long-standing policies are reported to be taking place in Burma as the junta in control and a newly-elected Parliament appease international critics.

And Thailand just this week did gain a new and inexperienced Foreign Minister, Dr Surapong Tovijakchaiyakul, who has already been criticised for his rapid approval of fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra's application to make a trip to Japan.

What Phuketwan can say with certainty is that the Immigration department's detention of Rohingya in numbers has strained the budgets of local holding centres. Funding allocations do not account for having large groups of people held prisoner for long periods.

Whether the sudden shift of captive Rohingya to Ranong and into longtail boats is a change in policy or a convenient but short-term solution to Thailand's Rohingya problem will only become clear as the United Nations and other organisations ask the new government for an explanation of what is going on.
Phuket Boatpeople 'Vanish' from Phang Nga
Latest A source confirms that 35 Rohingya men and boys from a boatload of would be refugees that landed on Phuket have now been moved - and a UN agency would like to know where.
Phuket Boatpeople 'Vanish' from Phang Nga

Phuket's Boatpeople Still Being Held
Latest A group of Rohingya boatpeople, including young boys, is still being held in cramped condition after five months on Phuket as concerns grow for their wellbeing.
Phuket's Boatpeople Still Being Held

Children Being Held Among Phuket, Phang Nga Boatpeople
Latest With concern mounting that Thailand may have restarted its reprehensible push backs of Rohingya refugees, we publish the names and ages of those being held on Phuket and in Phang Nga.
Children Being Held Among Phuket, Phang Nga Boatpeople

Phuket Immigration Denies Rohinga 'Repatriation'
Latest Immigration authorities on Phuket say that no decision has been made yet about the future of a boatload of Rohingya captured on the island. Reports of 'repatriation' appear premature.
Phuket Immigration Denies Rohinga 'Repatriation'

More Phuket Boatpeople! About 68 Rohingya Land on Phuket in Two Groups
Breaking News UPDATE About 68 Rohingya in two groups have been apprehended after the first boatpeople waded ashore on a quiet part of Phuket near a luxury five-star resort.
More Phuket Boatpeople! About 68 Rohingya Land on Phuket in Two Groups

Phuket Pair Win Top Asia Pacific Reporting Awards
Latest Phuketwan's editorial team pick up two top journalism prizes at Asia Pacific awards: for Excellence in Investigative Reporting and for Excellence in Human Rights Reporting.
Phuket Pair Win Top Asia Pacific Reporting Awards

Comments

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Disgusting..puts a whole new meaning on human rights abuse!!!!I Hope the UN takes decisive action against Thailand...Shamefull.

Posted by davidj949 on August 19, 2011 21:00

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They entered the country illegally. They have no right to be in Thailand. Can't believe they are being PAID 4000 baht to leave... They should have to PAY that for the privilege of being escorted back to their country. Human rights abuse would have been to shoot them for entering the country illegally. As it is, they have been treated with exceptional leniency and some will probably head back to Thailand again hoping to get another 4000 baht!

Posted by Bartholomew on August 19, 2011 22:08

Editor Comment:

Bartholemew, You've clearly never learned anything about the Rohingya, probably the most deprived people in the world. Has anyone ever explained to you the significance of compassion? . The boatpeople don't have a country to go back to. They are stateless. Don't you get it?

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Thanks PW for reporting on this. Let's hope they don't immediately get arrested when they land in Burma. Thailand was in a difficult position here, and i'm not entirely sure that what Thailand has done is actually legal. (Though of course we don't know if there has been dialogue between the two respective governments). One wonders why they couldn't have been transported up to the refugee camp in Mae Sot, or indeed if Malaysia had been asked to accept them. Glad they're out of prison. Let's hope they find safety.

Posted by Mr Man on August 20, 2011 07:17

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It seems to me as Burma is slowly changing ,lets hope so,....i know of more BURMESE who have worked over here are going back to Burma in the hope of building a new life for themselves there, and i think in the future you will see more of them returning..
I hope Burma makes some room for these Rohingya people too..

Posted by johndev on August 20, 2011 09:02

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Take them to England. They will get a nice house, car , Plasma tv , Latest Play station for the kids, Free medical care, Food vouchers and a host of other things. All this and can stay home all day.

Posted by Keefers Kathu on August 20, 2011 09:37

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@Bartholomew..I'm staggered by your post...What a disgusting individual you are.If you are going to post venom about these poor stateless human beings at least get your fact right!!!! The 4000 baht was NOT paid to them to leave..It was gifted by persons with a much bigger heart and understanding of what they have been through.Treated with leniency??? locked up for 6 months so cramped that two at least could not even stand up straight..whiter than white because they were inside a cell for so long..The average murderer doesn;t even have to endure such conditios...You are a very sad case and in need of help barholamew if you believe what you posted...

Posted by davidj949 on August 20, 2011 10:40

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@Bartholomew

When there's people like you in the world it's not hard to understand why some animals eat their young.

Have you no compassion at all, for anyone or anything.

I would like to say more but you're not worth it. Just pray you never need help.

Posted by Graham on August 20, 2011 17:24

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I love thailand but the way the poor and disadvantaged are treated is appalling

Posted by jh on August 20, 2011 22:32

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I don't understand one thing (that is) why all these Rohingya people are not being recognised as citizen anywhere? Do these people come from anyplace other than this planet (the Earth). Are all so-called well-learned humans (world's most powerful Governors etc.) don't think that these people also belong to this Earth? They have a right to live in this world with all human's requirement as well as social Values.

Posted by a real Human on August 21, 2011 07:35

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I understand the desire for and enjoy news updates however I wonder if after making this monetary compensation public knowledge, will the poor guys get ransomed for coincidentally around TB280,000 and sent on their way by some "Officials"?

Posted by no8wire on November 22, 2011 21:14


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