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Children enjoy snacks off Phuket after 13 days at sea in an open boat

Phuket Stop for Boatpeople: Rohingya Children Now Fleeing 'Certain Death' in Burma

Tuesday, January 1, 2013
PHUKET: A boatload of Rohingya - including women and children as young as three - was intercepted off the holiday island of Phuket in Thailand today.

The leader of the group of 74 told Phuketwan through an interpreter: ''Our families put to sea because there is no hope in Burma. If we stay, we will die.''

Previously, only men and boys among the persecuted Muslim minority put to sea. The family homes of thousands of Rohingya have been torched so the women and children now are also making the perilous voyages south in open boats.

Organisations connected with the Rohingya expect more than 20,000 will put to sea and voyage past Phuket this ''sailing season'' between October and April.

It was disturbing to see young children among the passengers in the exposed open boat today. Hands reached out eagerly for food and cigarettes.

Phuketwan rented a tourist speedboat and was able to interview the group of 74 alongside their boat as Royal Thai Navy ratings replenished their fuel and supplies.

Under Thailand's ''help on'' policy, the group will be told they cannot land but have been given assistance to reach their preferred destination, Malaysia.

Mohamad, 45, told us: ''We were heading south with a much larger boat but we ran out of fuel so we had to stop here.''

The larger boat is believed to be the vessel that recently dropped about 500 passengers off the holiday island of Langkawi in Malaysia, with one man dying when struck by a propeller.

Off the southern Phuket holiday island destination of Rawai this morning, we reached the Rohingya boat in about five minutes.

Rawai is a popular setting off point for tourist visitors who would have been exploring reefs and other island beaches today without realising the epic human drama of the boatpeople was just metres away.

Of the 74 people crowded into the open boat, said Mohamad, 10 were children under the age of 10. There were three three-year-olds, two boys and a girl.

Forteen women on board looked to Phuketwan to be mostly young teenagers.

The children keenly chewed on snacks given to them by local Chalong police and some of the men enjoyed cigarettes.

The hold below the open deck is also packed with people. Mohamad said they had been sailing for 13 days, departing from Maungtaw, in Rakhine state, where so-called ''community violence'' has caused death and destruction since June.

Mohamad said the fee asked by the people smuggler was 400,000 kyat per person.

Phuketwan has been covering the Rohingya saga since 2008 but this is the first time we've been able to intercept a group at sea.

Other boatloads have landed on Phuket and along the Andaman coast from time to time.

Usually they are described as ''Burmese'' - although the Rohingya are denied citizenship in Burma - and trucked straight back to the Thai-Burmese border.

The children waved to us as the speedboat pulled away to head back to Phuket.

Once they are ready and fully refuelled, the Rohingya's ''holiday'' off Phuket will be at an end.

Burma denies genocide against the Rohingya, who are hated by virtually all of Burma's Buddhist majority.

But most observers accept that a tactictly approved policy of ethnic cleansing is now forcing thousands of them to flee their homeland any way they can.

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Why does everyone seem to hate these people? Certainly no country wants them even on a temporary basis and clearly Myanmar are not prepared to let them stay.

Posted by Happy Farang on January 1, 2013 15:47

Editor Comment:

""Everyone'' does not hate these people. They have been living in Burma for centuries yet are despised by their neighbors. Race hate, Happy Farang, an unpleasant human trait.

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How sad is this...

Posted by stanley on January 1, 2013 15:58

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Ed, if you read my article it does not reflect my views. The fact is their "own" country does not want them and neither does any other country in the region. I do not make the rules therefore please apologise for calling me racist.

Posted by Happy Farang on January 1, 2013 17:46

Editor Comment:

Huh? If I wanted to call you a racist, I would say, ''Happy Farang, you are a racist.'' Please apologise for accusing me of calling you a racist.

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I, like Happy Farang, also fail to understand where this hatered towards the Rohingya comes from. I need to do more research but not much info around.

Is it because of their dark complexion or them being muslims, I do not know.

Neither makes any difference to me but it's not a secret that dark complexion is frowned upon in SE Asia.

I hope they will reach their destination safe and secure but I wonder what do Malaysian authorities make of the Thai policy of "helping on".

Spending a couple of weeks out on the seas off Phuket would most likely give many unique opportunities to interview and meet other fleeing Rohingya.

Perhaps a kind hearted boat owner would take a PW reporter onboard and provide an opportunity to give these oppressed people a voice.

Posted by Andrew on January 1, 2013 19:00

Editor Comment:

A Burmese diplomat in Hong Kong famously described the Rohingya as ''looking like ogres'' or words to that effect. It seems most Burmese struggle with difference and tolerance. Sad for them, really.

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"Race hate, Happy Farang, an unpleasant human trait" You are referring to others, not me as it would be incorrect to do so.

Posted by Happy Farang on January 1, 2013 19:42

Editor Comment:

The words are plain, Happy Farang. I am not responsible for your misinterpretations. You make them often and I'm very, very weary of correcting them. Find yourself a chat room, please.

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You guys are too much grow up, the fact the people are being mistreated and murdered concerns us all.

Posted by da capT on January 1, 2013 20:26

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What the editor meant to say was:-
Mr Happy Farang, "race hate " is an unpleasant human trait.
So, can we all move on now?

Posted by steven on January 1, 2013 20:48

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Goodbye to genocide year 2012 .This 2013 is not Happy Year for Rohingyas where state sponsored GENOCIDE is constantly in place.

A few intellectual people (mostly Foreigners) who witnessing the genocide on Rohingyas have no smile and holidays this year and nonstop working at the plight of Rohingyas.Like the generous Editor and members of Phuketwan News has no holidays this times due to continue coming of this Rohingyas by sea there. I thanked and proud of the Phuketwan Reporters who met the unfortunate Rohingyas in the seas. I also thanks the local authorities who supplied humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya boat people where 2-3 years babies and some women are in the groups. Is that not humanitarian crisis in this region ?This people are left their thousands years of historical homeland Arakan due to RACIST military dictatorial Thein Sein regime. The UN and World re known Medias said that Rohingyas are the most persecuted Ethnic people in the World. These people have been persecuted The traffickers are always active along side the Thai-Malaysia boarder to hunt the released Rohingya boat people from Thai Authority .Thai authorities always help the boat people by providing humanitarians items . They cunningly traffickers organize and bring the victims to their hiding jungle camps and torture the victims till realize around 2000 USD per head though calling by mobile phone .If failed to realize their demand,the Rohingya victims are sold to fishing trawlers for one years.Due to genocide in Arakan ,the Rohingya's hue and cry is everywhere .Until Rohingyas are protected under international forces, the tragedy cannot be ended. The UN and World re known Medias said that Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted people in the World.In the mean times the RACIST Thien Sein regime is one of most Human Rights violator and corrupted government in the World.This unfortunate Rohingyas are the victims of RACISM .
i am very sorry for happy tourists if someone feel inconvenient due to uninvited guest of Rohingyas in Phuket Sea or beach. Maybe your heavenly happiness will be interrupted due to this victims of war news,but please don't comment badly those who showed HUMANITY .
If anyone would like to know the untold genocidal suffering of Rohingyas and their GLORIOUS thousands years of History of their own homeland Arakan please feel free to visit our website -http://www.rohingyathai.blogspot.com.
Please condemned the heartless Military ruler who still killing ,raping ,uprooting ,looting land and properties and burning houses of ROHINGYA AND KACHIN.We love to see generous and not racist people in our overseas lives.Please work to eliminate Racism from the earth.

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,President,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand,(BRAT) on January 2, 2013 04:31


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