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The Rohingya boat found today at Laem Ka Noi, vessel for 68 men and boys

Rip-Offs and Rohingya: No End to Phuket Surprises

Tuesday, February 1, 2011
News Analysis

PHUKET is a popular tourist destination and most international visitors will arrive by air or on a cruise ship. Given the squeeze for Chinese New Year, it would be wise to make a reservation.

An advance booking is not possible for hungry Rohingya. They jumped from a boat laden with would-be refugees and waded ashore at the weekend to a Phuket beach alongside a five-star luxury resort.

Phuket is constantly full of surprises.

Laem Ka beach, the small arc of sand in Rawai that adjoins the five-star Six Senses Resort, where the desperate men clambered ashore, usually sees speedboat loads of Korean tourists departing or returning from day trips to Phuket's coral reefs.

Phuket's beaches though have become a destination where the unexpected can be anticipated, ever since the tsunami of 2004 rolled in. These days, the west coast beaches are increasing notorious for extortion rip-offs by jet-ski operators who make false damages claims on unsuspecting tourists.

Rip-offs are a regular occurrence on Phuket. Rohingya, until now, have been relatively rare. The men have said that they slid overboard to take their chances, lost in darkness and not knowing where they were coming ashore.

Fuller accounts of what the men did before their apprehension will probably emerge as they are debriefed by police and immigration officials.

The arrest of a second group took the boatload to more than 60. The exhausted travellers looked hungry, as one would expect after a long voyage in an open boat and 10 days with no food. One had a nasty gash on his head from a clash with rocks.

On the boats, usually all that the ''snakehead'' people traffickers provide is dried rice, which the passengers then reconstitute by adding fresh water. Day after day, crammed in tight, with no protection from the sun, they slip slowly south.

Authorities in Thailand will be perturbed that these men are the third lot of Rohingya to land in the space of a few days, with the prospect of more on the water.

The ''snakeheads'' are said to have slashed the price of the perilous voyage south from Bangladesh or Burma, with the Rohingya hopeful of finding sanctuary in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Navigation aids are non-existent, so for the desperate voyagers, it's really a matter of instinct and good fortune. In the past week, boatloads amounting to some 200 men and boys have chanced their luck and landed in Thailand, where would-be refugees are unwelcome. More are possibly on the water.

One outcome already causing problems is a squeeze on accommodation for Rohingya, with the large detention centre in Bangkok reported to be full to capacity of 1500 and other centres filling up fast.

Among the 1500 are a boatload of Rohingya who have been held for two years, as if to say to those who might be thinking of following: ''Don't come, you will only find more disappointment in endless captivity.''

For two years, revelations of the often-deadly nature of the Thai military's pushbacks of boatloads of Rohingya actually kept the boats to a minimum. Only one boat was reported in the intervening time - until a week ago.

Questions will be asked about how the boats slipped through the Navy patrols that were designed to ''help on'' refugees to friendlier destinations. More may be on the way, even though Thailand is hanging out the ''House Full'' sign.

And there's just no telling what might happen next on the appealing beaches of Phuket and along the five-star Andaman coast.
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Comments

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"Questions will be asked about how the boats slipped through the Navy patrols that were designed to ''help on'' refugees to friendlier destinations."

And they've got the balls to call this the land of smiles. Sure providing you don't mind having your BASIC Human Rights abused. Any right thinking, decent human being wouldn't put animals in the cages they put these people into.

Simply an appalling record of Human Rights. Shameful, but no shame in The Land of Smiles.

Posted by Graham on February 1, 2011 19:13

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1500 men held for being oppressed to be oppressed again by Thailand.

1500 people, that is all. There are more than 62 million Thai people in Thailand. Give these poor folk a chance in life.
They will be the most gracious and hard working people of anyone in Thailand if Thailand did something nice and just gave them citizenship.

Again, Shame on Thailand and the governing powers for being so cruel.

Posted by Tbs on February 2, 2011 10:41

Editor Comment:

All kinds of people, including about 60 Rohingya, are among the 1500 in detention. Thailand's difficulty is understandable: it has to deal with the problems of its own citizens and cannot afford to encourage the downtrodden from neighboring countries to see it as a sanctuary. What Thailand should be doing is forcing Burma to accept its responsibility for the Rohingya. But Burma offers natural resources and cheap labor . . . so self-interest as always dominates human rights.


Thursday November 23, 2017
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