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Boatpeople being held off the Andaman coast in 2008: a new policy now

Phuket Bypass: Navy Denies 'Chasing' Boatpeople

Saturday, March 13, 2010
A BOATLOAD of Rohingya have been picked up in Malaysia after reportedly being ''helped on their way'' by the Thai Navy off Phuket.

The Canadian Press reported that the vessel, containing 93 men, had been ''chased out of Thai waters'' before they were eventually detained off the Malaysian island of Langkawi, south of Phuket.

Phuketwan on Thursday sought confirmation that the Thai Navy had intercepted the boat off the popular Phuket diving destination of Raya island this week.

Officers at the Third Navy base on Phuket's Cape Panwa promised to organise an interview with the Vice Admiral in charge of the base after a reporter appeared, seeking information about the Rohingya. No call has come.

The regional head of the Internal Security Operations Command, Colonel Manat Kongpan, said by telephone that he had no knowledge of the apprehension of Rohingya off Thailand's coast. ''They just pass Thailand,'' he said.

This incident is the first reported sighting of a boatload of would-be refugees off Thailand's Andaman coast since last year's controversial ''pushbacks'' of refugees in unpowered vessels to international waters, where hundreds are believed to have died.

While no admissions have been made by Thai military authorities, the policy now appears to be to assist the boatpeople if they require food and water, but to make sure they are intercepted before they reach the coast and firmly suggest they continue their journey.

International standards require all countries to accept responsibility for would-be refugees found in their territorial waters. International rules also govern the interception of vessels in distress on the open sea.

Malaysian officials have been told the Rohingya, fleeing persecution in Burma, spent 30 days at sea in the crowded wooden boat, Canadian Press reported.

Zainuddin Mohamad Suki, an officer with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, said a fishing boat had earlier reported that the men were asking for food and water from passing vessels after their open boat experienced engine failure.

''Some of the men said they were chased out of Thai waters earlier before they made their way to Langkawi. They said they were sailing aimlessly in the hope of finding a country that will accept them,'' Zainuddin told The Associated Press.

Vimon Kidchob, spokeswoman for the Thai Foreign Ministry, however, said ''troops'' gave the men food and water, suggesting the men left Thai waters of their own accord, the report said.

''The Rohingyas were not chased out of the Thai waters,'' the agency quoted the FM spokeswoman as saying.

''Thai troops on the Andaman Coast found a group of non-Thai people in boats, so they gave the people food and water and let them continue their journey,'' she said.

In Malaysia, Zainuddin said some of the men detained suffered minor injuries and have been given medical treatment.

All 93 have been handed over to the immigration department in northern Kedah state and are likely to be sent to a detention centre, he added.

Fourteen months after their boat was apprehended off the Andaman coast, Thailand continues to hold one group of Rohingya in detention.

Two teenagers died in custody because of appalling conditions and the survivors have attempted a hunger strike to win their freedom.

Phuketwan has been told by usually reliable sources that more boatloads of would-be refugees are already at sea, and will be passing popular Andaman holiday destinations, including Phuket, as they seek refuge.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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The Malaysian Government will be so pleased that the Thai Navy is helping Rohingya refugees to reach Malaysia. What kind Navy people! ''Oh, so you really want to go to Malaysia, let us help you.'' ''Actually, Thailand would do . . .'' ''No, let us help you, please!'' Looks like Thailand is playing by its own rules yet again. Ignore the international community. Ignore international human rights. Just carry out orders.

Posted by Angelfire on March 13, 2010 10:10

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I have to admit I am biased. A boatload of only young Muslim men frightens me. Thank you Bin Laden.

As Thailand take on a really big share of political and economical refugees from its neighboring countries, I can understand the government being afraid to be overrun if you look encouraging.

The solution of a safe passage to Malaysia is much better than sending them adrift to die.

Posted by Lena on March 13, 2010 16:02

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Lena, I'm not sure that religion has much to do with this. The Navy base at Cape Panwa on Phuket is in the heart of a large Muslim community. About one third of Phuket's citizens are peace-loving Muslims. To fear down-trodden, innocent people because of their religion is irrational and damaging. There is no evidence these people wanted to go to Malaysia. The Thais are simply keen to avoid their human rights responsibilities.

Posted by Angelfire on March 14, 2010 08:53

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I think Thailand is doing the right thing, this will discourage further attempts to illegally arrive in Thailand. Thailand is not a developed nation and can't cope with/finance supporting these people, sure I will be called a racist, but I wish Australia would adopt the same policy and just escort them right back to where they came from, only way to go.

Posted by Ian on March 14, 2010 09:53

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I think that not the same from Phuketwan report according on the number, 93. so ''They just pass Thailand,'' but why you Mr.Alan alway destroy Thailand. That enough?

Editor: Simon, the people who ''destroy Thailand'' are those who believe the military can do what it pleases in a democracy. No democracy has ever been destroyed by a free press.

Posted by simon on March 15, 2010 21:13

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Actually, the helpless Rohingyas are seeking a safe place where they can able to live a peaceful life as a human being on this earth.

All human beings have the equal rights to live on the same earth.Today,Rohingyas exist in a dangerous situation, no security, no legal rights, their lives are in fear.

What we need to consider, as a human being, to bring the right solution of this disaster consider if you are in the same condition?

I request to the world community, UNO, NATO, USA, EU to use the international force to bring the justice against those criminal brutal regime by International Criminal Court, who are openly killing the innocent people by their inhuman acting.

Finally solution for peace and love can be achieved by removing the military junta in the future.

Sincerely yours,
Azmi

Frankfurt-Germany

Posted by Azmi on March 16, 2010 15:32


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