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Secret Smugglers' Island Raided: Traffickers Paid 60,000 Baht a Head for Travel to Australia, Malaysia

Sunday, July 7, 2013
PHUKET: Thai Marine Police raided a secret camp on an island south of Phuket last night and ''rescued'' about 200 men, women and children who were to be ''smuggled to Malaysia and Australia,'' according to initial reports.

The Superintendent of Marine Police in the southern Andaman province of Satun has told media that the group had paid up to 60,000 baht each to be smuggled to both countries illegally.

It has long been suspected that people traffickers have shifted operations to an island off the Thai coast after boats were intercepted and secret camps on the mainland were raided in January, with about 2000 Rohingya still being held in Thailand.

Persecuted Muslim-minority Rohingya, Burmese nationals and Bangladesh citizens were said to be among those being interviewed today on Tarutao island, in the middle of a National Marine Park close to the border with Malaysia.

Interviews were being conducted by marine police on the island today. According to one source at an NGO, the people on the island could have been there for months. The safe sailing season for people fleeing Burma in small boats begins in October and ends in April.

However, there have been reports of larger cargo vessels making the journey further out from the Thai coast, to escape Royal Thai Navy patrols. It is believed the men, women and children were told they would be taken to Penang or Langkawi in Malaysia as the next stage in their journeys.

The capture of 200 more trafficking victims will seriously stress Thailand's capacity to hold more would-be refugees. There are 2000 Rohingya men, women and children scattered across Immigration centres and family refuges throughout Thailand.

Five deaths have been reported since January among men being held at one Immigration centre, Sadao, in Songkhla province.

With Ramadan arriving next week and Muslims obliged to fast between sunup and sundown, grave fears are held for the wellbeing of all the men being held in cramped conditions with little exercise or access to medical care.

Comments

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Maybe one solution to the overcrowding and other problems would be to allow UNHCR to run and fund refugee camps on Thai soil, as is common in other parts of the developing world.

Thailand would be off the financial hook and refugees would have access to proper agencies to assess their refugee status.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 7, 2013 15:01

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Seems Thailand can achieve things Indonesia cant or have no political acumen to do.

Posted by slickmelb on July 7, 2013 17:40

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Lots of money involved doubt they would want to get UNHCR involved

Are you sure the name of the Island is right ?? and is not Ko Tarutao or some mix of Malay name as the word for Koh (Island) in Bahasa is Pulau

Posted by Michael on July 7, 2013 21:57

Editor Comment:

Yes, it's Tarutao, thanks.

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- Michael

I'm sure that's exactly why UNHCR has been kept away from the refugees but also exactly the reason why the it should be publicly debated.

Get PM Yingluck on, say, BBC HardTalk or Al Jazeera and ask her face to face why UNHCR is given neither access nor opportunity to fund and operate refugee camps since Thai authorities cite lack of funds for poor conditions and treatment of the Rohingya.

Other nations need to help both UNHCR to achieve this and apply pressure on Myanmar to end the sectarian violence and persecution of the Rohingya.

Judging from the poor response of many so called civilized nations, mine included, Thailand isn't the only country where money supersedes human rights.

In their systematic abuse of refugees and modern day slavery practices Thailand is in a class of it's own though. To make matters worse, your average Thai shows no interest in such abuse happening right on their doorstep but is rather annoyed by the fact that those pesky foreign reporters dare to raise awareness and seek justice.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 8, 2013 15:02

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Other nations got to assist each UNHCR to get this and apply pressure on Myanmar to finish the particular sectarian violence and persecution from the Rohingya.

Posted by Nonicantik on February 15, 2014 11:23


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