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The Rohingya boat, washed ashore at Satun's Rawai beach early today

Rohingya Boat Washes Ashore South of Phuket: Thousands More Expected as Sailing Season Starts

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
PHUKET: A boatload of Rohingya was washed ashore today in southern Thailand - the first of what's likely to be thousands of new arrivals in a mass exodus from Burma.

The safe ''sailing season'' usually does not start until late October but today's landing of 219 men at a beach in the province of Satun indicates the desperation of fleeing Rohingya.

Three other boats are reported to have set off from Burma's troubled Rakhine state at the same time. With savage monsoon squalls lashing the seas north and south of Phuket, there is no word on their whereabouts.

Local police in Satun were holding the Rohingya near Rawai beach in Tungwa district, awaiting the arrival of a team from the Army's Internal Operations Security Command, Phuketwan has learned.

What will happen to the would-be refugees is uncertain because Thailand's Immigration centres and police cells are already packed with Rohingya apprehended over the past eight months.

The dilemma is likely to grow more troubling for Thailand. By many counts, at least 35,000 Rohingya men, women and children fled to the sea last sailing season.

That number could triple between now and April, informed sources say, because conditions in Burma for the Rohingya and other Muslims have grown more precarious since violence erupted in June last year.

Thailand claims to be protecting its captive Rohingya but eight deaths have been reported in custody and scores of men, women and children have absconded into the arms of human traffickers.

A six-month self-imposed deadline set by the Thai government to decide the status and future of the Rohingya being held in Thailand has now been extended to one year.

The decision suits hard-liners who would rather keep the Rohingya in confinement indefinitely as a warning to others that they will find no sanctuary in Thailand.

Officials in the Thai military simply ignore the evidence from Rohingya who have reached Malaysia and from villagers along Thailand's Andaman coast that renegade officers are participants in the people smuggling ''industry'' that has made some brokers rich.

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