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Rohingya among hundreds ''rescued'' from secret camps

Second Secret Camp Raided: Immigration Chief Tells of Alien-Thai Smuggling Gangs

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
PHUKET: Immigration officials have raided a second secret jungle camp holding Rohingya. The leader of the operation said today that as many as 10 ''alien-Thai'' gangs are involved in large-scale people-smuggling.

The Commander of Immigration Division 6, Major General Thatchai Pitaneelaboot, told Phuketwan that raids on the secret camps in southern Thailand ''will continue this week and next week.''

He said more than 500 men, women and children had been apprehended in the first raid on a camp and 200 more had been apprehended in the second raid.

''The camps are simple structures with earthen floors and plastic sheeting overhead,'' the major general said. ''There appear to be quite a few in operation because it's the safe sailing season for these people between January and April.''

He described the Rohingya, stateless and unwanted in Burma (Myanmar) as Burmese Muslims and said the two groups being held would be fingerprinted, interviewed and deported ''back where they came from.''

Rohingya interviewed by NGOs in Malaysia say they are not sent back to Burma but put in boats from the Thai border port of Ranong then taken south again by traffickers.

''We are very serious about processing these groups,'' Major General Thatchai said. When asked whether the process involved human trafficking, he said he preferred to use the term people-smuggling.

The distinction, however, may not apply where captives are beaten and tortured in the camps to extort money in making telephone calls to family and friends. As much as 50,000 or 60,000 baht is usually asked for each individual.

The activist group the Arakan Project reports that at least 9000 Rohingya left northern Burma in November by sea for Malaysia with about 7000 following in December. Villagers along the Andaman coast say drug dealers have switched to trading in boatpeople because it is less dangerous and more lucrative.

According to new arrivals recently interviewed in Malaysia, the border camps are becoming increasingly brutal places where deaths and rapes occur with increasing frequency.

Major General Thatchai agreed today that business was brisk. ''The economy behind the smuggling of Burmese Muslims is huge. We have been applying pressure in local villages.

''Some local people join in the smuggling. They gain the benefit, one way or another.''

Phuketwan has found villages where attitudes differ. Some Muslims hate to see what's going on and do what they can to stop the brutality. Others allow it to happen, and sometimes join in.

''There are lots of sites for these camps,'' the major general said. ''It takes a large number of staff to carry out a raid and deal with the people arrested.''

Mystery surrounds how the Rohingya are moved by sea and land in vast numbers through to Malaysia without more frequent intervention and the arrest of smuggler-traffickers by Thai authorities.

Major General Thatchai said he could not determine how many smuggler-traffickers had been arrested but warrants were being sought from the Songkhla court for more arrests.

He said he intended to invite the media and NGOs to visit the secret camps and go along on the deportation process.

Phuketwan was unable to reach the Burma Embassy today to confirm whether Rohingya/ Burmese Muslims were now being allowed to return to the country.

Thai Immigration officials apprehended more than 2000 Rohingya men, women and children between January and March last year from camps and boats with the intention of reviewing their status and trying to place them in third countries.

The policy appeared to fail and most of the Rohingya have escaped or been smuggled-trafficked to Malaysia.

The latest raids come with the US State Department finalising its research for its next Trafficking In Persons report. The report is due in June and Thailand is in danger of slipping in ranking.

Comments

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Smuggling gangs????...Hmmm...I wonder...supported by who?

Posted by sky on January 28, 2014 15:09

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Excellent news and kudos to all involved for doing their jobs properly. Is it a sensible practice to inform 'gangs' they are going to be raided this week?

Posted by gee on January 28, 2014 17:18

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We applauded continuous rescuing dying Rohingyas form the human traffickers. The traffickers gangs have failed to pick pocket around one and half millions US Dollars . We are very much upset of Thai policy to push back them to Burma where genocidal killings are going . If they were really sent to Kaw Thaung of Burma ( opposite side of Ranong ),they will be arrested and kept in prisons with hard works for a long periods notorious prison in Burma. In fact ,these all detainees will be got back by the greedy traffickers in the middle of the seas before enter into Burma water . This is totally against the international law to throw these genocides escapees to the unsafe areas. It is requested the 532+200 detainees to give shelter at the Refugee camps .The UNHCR can determine their status. This is our request to the Thai authorities to target the greedy traffickers and bring them for trail and deal the arrested Rohingyas as refugee as per international standard. We also appreciated concerned Thai authorities for inviting medias. The most important factor is their safety and help them not to fall second times at traffickers' trap.Please save the humanity!

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand ,BRAT. on January 28, 2014 19:50

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The major general said. ''It takes a large number of staff to carry out a raid and deal with the people arrested.'' Lacking staff is a very poor excuse. That is what the army is for. This is a repeat of the Thai pirates and Vietnamese boating people crisis.

Posted by earmuffs on January 29, 2014 19:14


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