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Two Rohingya who can no longer walk await treatment on Phuket

Phuket Immigration Boatpeople Captives 'No Longer Able to Walk'

Saturday, July 20, 2013
PHUKET: Four Rohingya who can no longer walk are beng treated at a Phuket hospital after being kept prisoners in a confined space in cells for months.

Phuketwan photographed two of the young boatpeople yesterday in wheelchairs inside Vachira Phuket Hospital, the largest public hospital in Phuket City.

Two more Rohingya were admitted the previous day, suffering from conditions associated with atrophy of muscles caused by confinement without space to stretch or exercise.

The four are among 38 Rohingya males being held in two small cells at the Phuket Immigration Centre in Phuket City.

Seven Rohingya are said to have aleady died since January under similar cramped conditions in Sadao, in Songkhla province, according to Amnesty International.

Secret television footage earlier this year revealed horrific conditions at a third Immigration centre in Phang Nga, north of Phuket.

Conditions are believed to have improved at Phang Nga where more than 260 inmates are now allowed to leave their cells in small numbers to exercise.

Conditions in Phuket are believed to be worse. Phuketwan has seen the two cells and prisoners in those cells have no access to sunlight or exercise.

The cells have the most basic toilet and showering facilites imaginable. When the Phuket Imigration Headquarters was upgraded several years ago, the condition of the cells remained unchanged.

With almost 20 prisoners per cell, there would be little room to move or stretch. The condition of the prisoners is made worse because as Muslims, the boatpeople are now marking Ramadan by fasting from dawn until dusk.

This group of captives were apprehended on Lon Island, just off Phuket, on March 23.

Although others among the 2000 Rohingya being held in Thailand have been captive since January, the Phuket group were at first held by Indian authorities for 40 days before being ''helped on'' with food and water to another destination.

Despair is growing among the detainees with the six-month deadline imposed by the Thai Government for a decision on their status and future approaching next week.

''Hopelessness is overwhelming them,'' a source told Phuketwan yesterday. ''The four who can no longer walk are all young, in their teens.

''They expected to be at sea for 10 days or a fortnight before reaching Malaysia and starting a new life there.

''Now they are being punished without a crime. They are told nothing. They are slowly losing the will to live.''

At least two deaths in custody occurred when a boatload of Rohingya were kept in Immigration cells in Ranong, the port on the border with Burma, for an extended period in 2009.

Television footage taken when the survivors of that group were tranferred to a better equipped centre in Bangkok showed men bent double and barely able to shuffle because of confinement in cramped spaces without sunshine or exercise.

That group were kept in detention in Thailand for two years as a warning to others that Thailand offered them no sanctuary.

Since the fresh violence and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Burma's Rakhine state began in June last year, an estimated 30,000 to 34,000 men, women and children have fled by sea, about four times the number in the previous 12 months.

Even greater numbers of Rohingya are expected off the coast of Thailand from October this year, when the safe ''sailing season'' begins again.

Although the Thai Navy rejects accusations that it has been paid for smuggling Rohingya, boatpeople and villagers along the Andaman coast say Thai military and police have become increasingly involved in the highly profitable trade.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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It is clear that Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Australia, India does not want these people. Why don't their fellow Muslim countries take them, in this region Malaysia and Indonesia. The tiny Jewish state offers Israeli citizenship to anyone that can prove they are a Jew from absolutely any where. They airlifted people from Ethiopia who are clearly very different looking being of African decent but still did so as there was proof they were Jewish. They were also mostly very poor.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 20, 2013 14:51

Editor Comment:

This is repression, persecution, ethnic cleansing and looming genocide in a country where tolerance should be obligatory. Just as Muslims live contentedly among Buddhists all along Thailand's Andaman coast, so people of different religions should be tolerated in Burma. Comparisons with Israel are not valid.

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Ed, I am not getting into repression etc but do you really think the Russian Jews in the Soviet Union days had a good life. After the Soviet Union fell many Jews went to Israel as before they were not allowed to leave the Soviet Union. I understand that you hope better things for these people but clearly the political world is not working for them in this region so maybe religion is a better option for them to seek citizenship in another country. From what I understand even if they make it to Malaysia etc they would still be illegal immigrants so would not have access to facilities and the fear of being caught. I know you like to put down your readers but it would have been better to just print my comment so that people (inc maybe governments can adjust their position)Indonesia is a massive country so has size to cope with more people.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 20, 2013 15:34

Editor Comment:

If size is what works for you, then Australia has plenty of unused space, FF. Perhaps they should be allowed to start a new country there, as you wish to draw parallels with Israel. I guess in your world, doctors do not treat the cause of complaints - they simply operate or amputate.

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This is a disgrace to humanity, let alone Thailand alone!

Ed - i would hardly call the deep south living contentedly!

Posted by eezergood on July 20, 2013 16:31

Editor Comment:

I wouldn't call the Andaman coast the deep south.

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Don't believe a word of it the Thai government would not allow such a thing it's all NGO and journalistic hype these people are not unlike the illegals we get in Europe they will do or say anything to stay and are often coached on what to say and do to allow them to gain entry into the countries they have illegally entered.Bangladesh should be their first point of call not Thailand they have cultural , linguistic and religious links that go back centuries with these people that are in fact Bangladeshi more time should be spent bad mouthing Bangladesh over its inaction to take it's people than the quest by this tourist magazine to constantly berate Thailand's armed forces and government over these illegal immigrants

Posted by Stunner on July 20, 2013 17:00

Editor Comment:

Advocating acceptance of brutality, deaths in custody, rape, indefinite detention and mass people smuggling for profit sets your new, improved low, Scunner. Definitely a Stunner.

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I'm not sure which is more upsetting - the fate of these people in the report or the heartless and cynical comments made by some readers.

NGO hype ? Seriously ? So these people are faking their inability to walk ? A condition that was predicted to be the result a couple of months ago if conditions do not improve.

Obviously the authorities could not care less so now we have people in wheelchairs. After all it's not humans, just some poor, dark skinned ogres good only for slaves.

Land of Smiles indeed.

Some people would do well to remember and read what happened in Rwanda just 2 decades ago. Nobody cared and millions died.

Only afterwards was the world appalled and at a loss how could this have been allowed to happen. Mmh.

These are PEOPLE, just like you and me with hopes and dreams, loved ones to care and worry about.

Their crime ? Having a dark complexion and minority faith in the country they've been living in for centuries.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 20, 2013 19:13

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Come on mike really skin color ,you like a small minority have fallen hook line and sinker for the sob story pedaled by this magazine and the journalist who seems hell bent on making her goal in life to blame and slate the Thai government and it's armed forces of ill treating these illegals which I don't believe of my fellow brothers in arms for one moment ,these illegals could find a far more suitable country to stay in by just traveling north to the Bangladeshi border it's that simple.The UN should be setting up camps for them all along the Bangladeshi side of the Burma border rather than allowing them to risk life and limb in these pointless attempts of finding a place to set up camp be it in Thailand,Malaysia Singapore,Indonesia or even Australia who it seems are so sick of the sob stories and having their country being over run by a tide of Rohingya and others so much so that any boat people trying to get into Australia now will be shipped to Papua for up to a year before being sent home.

Posted by scunner on July 20, 2013 23:14

Editor Comment:

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the politics, Spinner, people shouldn't be treated like goods and dumped at sea or confined like battery hens. You seem to overlook the obvious: the Burmese government should be forced to give the Rohingya citizenship and protect them. Thailand is clearly an unwilling accomplice. Do you really need to be told what all your fellow ''brothers in arms'' elsewhere have done to others down the years?

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What a load of tosh the Thai armed forces do an outstanding job and are a professional outfit and I for one am sick of your constant bad mouthing of them and anyone with an opinion other than yours in this tourist journal, you Miss use words like battery hen conditions where is your irrefutable evidence you see yourself as a investigative journalist the Judith Miller of phuket so go and get the evidence until then it's just speculation on your part, as for these two men in the wheel chairs if they are in fact crippled by the conditions get a UNHCR rep down there to gather the evidence and bring a case until then all you have is unnamed sources some photos of god knows who and your usual dose of speculation.

Posted by scunner on July 23, 2013 17:07

Editor Comment:

I thought the Army, the Navy and the Airforce constituted Thailand's armed forces, Scunner. That's certainly the case in most other countries. Are you perhaps a little more confused than usual? Immigration officials are responsible for detaining these men and boys, and for their less than healthy condition. Amnesty International says seven people have died in another Immigration detention centre, so perhaps your uninformed rant should take on Amnesty's researchers as well. Army, Navy, Airforce and Immigration, Scunner's ''brothers in arms.''

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- Scunner

Outstanding job like containing the Southern violence or professional like procuring the highly useful aircraft carrier rusting away in Sattahip and the famous airship ?

Could it be the 2nd hand submarines they wanted to buy but forgot that Gulf of Thailand is on average only 30m deep ?

Perhaps it's the worlds largest ratio of generals to service men you refer to or maybe the countless civilian business operations the different factions of Thai armed forces operate.

Wait, I know, you must of course mean the purchase of the fabulous GT 200 bomb detector.

Yes, one outstanding and professional outfit indeed.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 23, 2013 17:51


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