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Rohingya on Phuket: Concerns for their future safety in Thailand

Phuket Boatpeople: UNHCR Renews Call for Access

Thursday, February 3, 2011
ROHINGYA boatpeople are still being processed by Immigration officers on Phuket today with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees keen to be allowed access to the 68 men and boys.

''We would like to assess whether there are people among them who might be refugees and might be in need of international protection,'' UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said by telephone from Geneva.

The hungry would-be refugees waded ashore in darkness at a Phuket beach on Monday night from a vessel that appeared to be barely capable of staying afloat.

The Phuket Rohingya are one of three groups of newly-arrived boatpeople now being held in Thailand.

One mystery about the long and perilous voyage the group on Phuket made from Burma or Bangladesh is how they managed to avoid the Thai Navy.

Another is how they were able to sail past the popular holiday beaches and fishing ports of Phuket's west coast to round the southernmost point of Phuket and finish up on an east coast beach.

Navy spokesman Captain Parinyatam Poonpitaktam said today that three Navy vessels patrolled each of three zones along the Andaman coast, between Thailand's northern border with Burma and the southern border with Malaysia, where all three Rohingya boats were believed to be heading.

Two Navy helicopters are also used for patrols, although one is always on the ground and ready for emergency use, and a fixed-wing aircraft also makes a daily survey along the Andaman coast and the Gulf of Thailand coast.

''This [the landing of the three boats] will be added to our experience and we will adapt, perhaps keeping our vessels at sea for longer,'' Captain Parinyatam said.

After the inhumane secret policy of boatpeople ''pushbacks'' from Thailand was exposed by Phuketwan and the South China Morning Post newspaper in January 2009, the Navy became involved in the replacement ''help on'' policy.

Hundreds of boatpeople are believed to have perished at sea during the pushbacks, which was Thailand's covert response to the arrival of almost 5000 Rohingya on Thailand's coast the previous sailing season.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva came to power shortly before the exposure of the pushbacks. He promised an investigation. But if there was one, its conclusions were never made public.

The policy did change, though, with the Navy ordered to ''help on'' boatpeople by assisting them to reach another nation by repairing engines, and providing food and water. Only one ''help on'' case has been acknowledged in the intervening two years.

Suspicions remain about how the latest three boats in this sailing season's arrivals made it to Thailand without being spotted.

Captain Parinyatam went so far as to suggest that the would-be refugees ''may have had the help of Thai people who don't love this country.''

That single boat ''helped on'' by the Navy last year did make Malaysia, where its 93 occupants were taken into detention. Malaysia allowed the UNHCR access to the group and all were declared refugees.

By contrast, 53 Rohingya from a boat that arrived in Thailand two years ago are still being held in the Thai immigration detention system. Two teenagers from that group died in the custody of Immigration in the Thai-Burma border port of Ranong.

When transferred to Bangkok after months packed tightly in a room with no access to sunlight or exercise, some of the survivors were bent double.

Human Rights Watch and other NGOs support the UNHRCR plea for access to all Rohingya boatpeople in Thailand.

One group of 91 from the first boat that landed in the southern province of Trang is believed to now be at the Ranong detention centre. Another group of 67 from the second boat is being held in the southern city of Songkhla after landing on the coast of Satun.

The UNHCR's Andrej Mahecic says: ''We are against any prolonged detention. This is a regional issue and the future of all Rohingya needs to be decided by the whole region.''
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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.
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Rip-Offs and Rohingya: No End to Phuket Surprises
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UN Calls for 'Protection' Access to Rohingya
Latest The fate of two groups of Rohingya in custody and at least two more groups who may be on the water sparks a UN call for access to determine the status and assure the safety of the men.
UN Calls for 'Protection' Access to Rohingya

Second Rohingya Boat Lands South of Phuket
Boatpeople crisis A second vessel carrying stateless Rohingya brings to more than 150 the number who have landed on Thailand's Andaman coast in a new wave of arrivals.
Second Rohingya Boat Lands South of Phuket

Comments

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if you ask Thai people they says 9 of 10 pass them to Malaysia or send them back, and that is exactly what Thailand will do!

Thailand has enough own problems as my GF say!

Posted by Mike on February 3, 2011 20:26


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