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Rohingya Beaten and Trafficked by Thai Navy off Phuket, Says ABC Report

Thursday, June 13, 2013
PHUKET: Fresh allegations are being made that the Royal Thai Navy intercepted Rohingya boatpeople off Phuket, brutally beat them and sold them on to human traffickers.

The alarming claims are being made in reports tonight on the national ABC radio, television and online network across Australia.

Bangkok-based reporter Zoe Daniel says she talked in Malaysia to Rohingya men who showed her scars they said were inflicted by Thai Navy sailors and traffickers in Thailand.

Asked about the allegations tonight, Vice Admiral Tharathorn Khajitsuwan, the Commander of Thai Navy Three, which patrols the Andaman Sea coast, said he could not talk about Rohingya issues. He rang off.

Strongest of the fresh allegations comes from a man named Zafar Ahmad who told the ABC that the Thai navy had played a role in ''pushing back'' a vessel earlier this year that ended up in Sri Lanka.

Ninety-six people died of starvation or thirst before the boat reached Sri Lanka, survivors said.

About 200 people are believed to have died in Thai military ''pushbacks'' in 2008-2009. The human rights abuse was first exposed by Phuketwan reporters working with the South China Morning Post newspaper. Soon after, the Thai Navy adopted a ''help on'' policy instead.

Would-be refugees intercepted at sea were given food, water and aid to keep travelling to a third country to prevent them landing in Thailand.

This year, with women and children joining their menfolk in fleeing ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state in Burma for the first time, allegations of the Thai Navy being connected to human traffickers have become more widespread.

Tonight's ABC report quoted Zafar Ahmad as saying: ''The navy arrested us and took us to an island, they took us into a forest, then they took our clothes so we had only underwear . . . They beat us and asked us why we came to this country.''

Within days, two Rohingya boats had their engines removed, more than 200 passengers were then put back on board, towed out to sea and abandoned.

One seemingly made it all the way to Sri Lanka, the ABC report said. It made headlines when it landed because 96 people died on the way due to lack of food and water.

''By the time Mr Ahmad's boat made it back to Thai shores, towed in by a fisherman, 12 people had died. Those left were then sold by villagers,'' the ABC reported.

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Not a pleasant story but removing boat marine engines sounds far fetched they would be worn out dungers not worth any effort to salvage & easily decommisioned forever.

Posted by slickmelb on June 14, 2013 03:42

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If this is true it makes me ashamed to be called the same as the navy personnel who did this, human. To beat people who are literally clinging on to life is beyond words. Are there no independant investigating bodies for the Thai Navy?

Posted by Donating Farang on June 14, 2013 12:57

Editor Comment:

There is no evidence, just the word of survivors. Sometimes there's confusion between the Navy and other arms of the military in Thailand. The Navy is saying nothing. In the past, the Navy has also never been able to say: ''It wasn't us, it was them.'' There certainly should be an independent investigation, but the powerful Thai military wouldn't stand for it. When boatpeople carry mobile telephones, we will get some interesting images.

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The Royal Thai navy would never engage in such despicable behaviour and unless there is irrevocable proof of the opposite why should they then defend themselves ?

Posted by Sailor on June 14, 2013 17:52

Editor Comment:

We are admirers of the Thai Navy too but if villagers who have been working with the Navy to repel Rohingya say that boatpeople have been trafficked by the Navy and boatpeople say the same thing, the Navy - or the military - has some answers to provide. Denials greeted the claims of ''pushbacks'' in 2008-2009 but the denials were quickly proved to be false.

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The Royal Thai navy is not an independent self financed institution that just decides to do things by itself, if indeed there were push backs or other repressive actions taken or being taken then look for the people that gave these orders and hold them responsible.

Posted by Sailor on June 15, 2013 08:02

Editor Comment:

Yes. but the human trafficking allegations are something else and those claims deserve a fullscale independent investigation, for the sake of the Navy and for the future of Thailand.


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