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Tourists on a holiday Phuket beach where it's life-or-death for boatpeople

Phuket Landing! Rohingya Boatpeople Captured, Police Hunt Others in Southern Phuket

Sunday, February 26, 2012
PHUKET: Police in southern Phuket today were rounding up Rohingya after a boatload of would-be refugees came ashore at Nai Harn beach before dawn.

The boys and men from the ricketty vessel spread out across Phuket looking for food and water after what a 13-year-old boy told police was a 12-day voyage.

The Rohingya, from Burma's oppressed Muslim minority, are not known to be dangerous but Phuket police will want them rounded up quickly.

By 11.30am a total of 65 men and boys were being held at Chalong police station, where officers went through the same experience 12 months ago when another boat landed nearby on Phuket.

Tourists on the popular Phuket beach early in the morning are believed to have sounded the alarm.

Nai Harn beach is surrounded by five-star and four-star resorts - a vivid contrast with the boatpeople, who have nothing and travel huge distances with dry rice and a small quantitiy of water.

The Rohingya, regarded as among the world's most persecuted ethnic groups, are denied citizenship and basic human rights in Burma.

Even the new so-called ''democratic'' Burma continues to conduct a campaign of subtle ethnic cleansing and declines to change its policy towards the Rohingya.

The 13-year-old boy told police that there were 102 men and boys on the boat but another voyager said there were 95 passengers.

Rohingya have been sailing in greater numbers from Bangladesh, where some live as refugees, and northern Burma because their oppression continues in both countries.

Boys and men always constitute the sailors. Rohingya women seldom leave their homes.

Many of the Rohingya boats, provided by people smugglers, put to shore only when food and water run out.

The Rohingya navigated by sight, never being sure whether or not they have reached Muslim-majority Malaysia, which is usually their aim.

A steady stream of boats have come ashore this sailing season - between October and April, when the sea is calm - both north and south of Phuket, along the Andaman coast.

The Royal Thai Navy conducts frequent patrols and usually ''helps on'' the vessels it intercepts with food, water, and mechanical attention if necessary.

This is a contrast to the notorious secret ''pushback'' policy adopted by Thailand and exposed by Phuketwan journalists working with the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong in January, 2009.

The series of articles made the region and the world aware of the Rohingya but neighboring countries have been unable to persuade Burma to treat the Rohingya humanely.

As a result, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia have agreed on a policy of silence and seldom if ever mention the Rohingya in public.

The result is that their treatment remains covert, although aid groups say they are confident that Thai authorities no longer mistreat boatpeople.

Usually, instead of lingering in captivity for years because they cannot be returned to Burma, the Rohingya captured in Thailand are returned to people smugglers and allowed on their way.

Comments

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I hope they got some water and food. Where are they now? Is there a way for people to bring them food and clothes?
Will they be sent back to Burma or that black whole where immigrants go with no trace, just like the Cambodian girl and other Rohingya.

Posted by Nancy Botwin on February 26, 2012 13:20

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Let's hope they get treated humanely and aren't just spirited away like some in the past. 12 days in that boat. Unimaginable.

Posted by Mr Man on February 26, 2012 14:55

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100 in that boat? Wau, I would not dare to drive to Freedom beach with that boat from Patong. Specialy without a life vest.
That shows the desperation of that people.
Sorry for them, unwanted everywhere.
And the Tourists at Nai Harn the whistleblowers.
I would have thrown my whistle away, if I had one and bought some food and drink for them.

Posted by Alfred on February 26, 2012 21:08

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Hope they will be treated humanely but I fear they will be abused.

Posted by Peter Tudders on February 27, 2012 05:25


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