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Thai Officials Linked to Rohingya Trafficking Networks, Says Torture Report

Monday, April 28, 2014
PHUKET: Thailand has been urged to ''root out networks of corrupted officials with links to human traffickers, and crack down on trafficking rings.''

The recommendations come at the conclusion of a chapter on Rohingya in the Shadow Report on Thailand's Implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Here is what the reports submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture say about treatment of Rohingya in Thailand:

Chapter 6. Cruel Treatment Towards the Rohingya (Article 16)

A. Current Policy & Practice
The Thai government's policies towards the Rohingya are ''ad hoc and inadequate,'' as Human Right Watch has characterised Thailand's policies on refugees and stateless people in general.

Over the years, measures taken by the Thai government have involved either deporting the Rohingya back at the Myanmar border; ''pushing back'' their boats out to sea, with little supplies and sometimes no running engines, resulting in over 300 deaths in 2008-2009 alone; or re-supplying their boats and ''helping them on'' towards their assumed final destinations (usually Malaysia or Indonesia).

Then, in early 2013, the Thai government shifted its policy on the Rohingya towards detaining them pending further measures. In January that year, the Thai authorities arrested over 800 Rohingya from several plantation raids in southern provinces, and hundreds more were also apprehended when their boats were intercepted by the authorities. They were all sent to be detained in several detention centers throughout the country.

The number of the Rohingya detained swelled to approximately 2000 people in June 2013, while the government, under international pressure, struggled to find suitable solutions for them. With time, these detained Rohingya slipped outside of Immigration detention centres, presumably with the help of human traffickers.

At the end of 2013, the last group of the detained Rohingya was reported to have been deported to Myanmar's Koh Son. It was unclear whether they would be sent back to the Rakhine state or if they would be allowed to continue their journey to their next country of destination after they were deported.

B. Violations
Concurrent to such policies and practice at the government level, it has been widely reported that Thai officials themselves have been engaging in selling the Rohingya boat people to human traffickers.

One BBC report from January 2013 shows the account of a young Rohingya man who escaped Myanmar to Thailand in November 2012 to flee ethnic violence. After the boat that he and 60 other Rohingya were on was intercepted by the Thai authorities, they were put in police vans and sold to people smugglers who then extracted money from them.

The trafficked Rohingya were severely beaten and forced to pay for their freedom or continuation of the journey to their final destinations. The report also reveals an under-the-table deal when another group of nearly 80 Rohingya were intercepted by the Thai authorities on 1 January 2013, and sold by officials to traffickers.

The 2012 report by Human Rights Watch also reports similar accounts of Rohingya being sold by Thai officials. These Rohingya were subjected to severe beatings and cruel treatment by their traffickers. Some who could not raise enough money were beaten to death.

Other reports also show that many Rohingya are sold to work in dangerous jobs such as on fish trawlers notorious for labor abuse and abysmal conditions, or into sexual slavery in the case of women. The widespread networks of human traffickers preying on the Rohingya were also confirmed by Surapong Kongchantuk from the human rights subcommittee under the Lawyers Council of Thailand who acknowledged the involvement of corrupted Thai officials.

However, as of June 2013, it was reported that only one police officer has been charged with taking part in human trafficking of the Rohingya, as a result of a probe into the rape of a Rohingya woman who was lured from a government-run shelter set up for Rohingya women and children.

Although such a charge is unprecedented, little further progress has been made. In fact, the charge was not pursued in 2014, according to court documents.

The Thai government should be doing much more to combat trafficking. The lack of genuine attempts, thus far, by the government to investigate and combat trafficking of the Rohingya shows its lack of political will to root out networks of corrupt officials engaging in such human trade.

This has resulted in growing networks of Rohingya trafficking today, and signals the failure of the Thai state to sincerely uphold article 16 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Recommendations

[Thailand must] undertake genuine efforts to root out networks of corrupted officials with links to human traffickers, and crack down on trafficking rings.

What President Obama Said About Tolerance in Asean


Excerpt from a q&a session by President Obama after a speech at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, released April 27 by the White House

THE QUESTION comes from our friend from Burma, from Myanmar. And he asks: To Mr. President, what would be your own key words or encouragement for each of us leaders of our next generation while we are cooperating with numerous diversities such as different races, languages, beliefs and cultures not only in Myanmar, but also across ASEAN? Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it's a great question. If you look at the biggest source of conflict and war and hardship around the world, one of the most if not the most important reasons is people treating those who are not like them differently. So in Myanmar right now, they're going through a transition after decades of repressive government, they're trying to open things up and make the country more democratic. And that's a very courageous process that they're going through.

But the danger, now that they're democratising is that there are different ethnic groups and different religions inside of Myanmar, and if people start organising politically around their religious identity or around their ethnic identity as opposed to organizing around principles of justice and rule of law and democracy, then you can actually start seeing conflicts inside those countries that could move Myanmar in a very bad direction - particularly, if you've got a Muslim minority inside of Myanmar right now that the broader population has historically looked down upon and whose rights are not fully being protected.

Now, that's not unique to Myanmar. Here in Malaysia, this is a majority Muslim country. But then, there are times where those who are non-Muslims find themselves perhaps being disadvantaged or experiencing hostility.

In the United States, obviously historically the biggest conflicts arose around race. And we had to fight a civil war and we had to have a civil rights movement over the course of generations until I could stand before you as a President of African descent. (Applause.) But of course, the job is not done. There is still discrimination and prejudice and ethnic conflict inside the United States that we have to be vigilant against.

So my point is all of us have within us biases and prejudices of people who are not like us or were not raised in the same faith or come from a different ethnic background. But the world is shrinking. It's getting smaller. You could think that way when we were all living separately in villages and tribes, and we didn't have contact with each other.

We now have the Internet and smart phones, and our cultures are all colliding. The world has gotten smaller and no country is going to succeed if part of its population is put on the sidelines because they're discriminated against.

Malaysia won't succeed if non-Muslims don't have opportunity. (Applause.) Myanmar won't succeed if the Muslim population is oppressed. No society is going to succeed if half your population - meaning women - aren't getting the same education and employment opportunities as men. (Applause.)

So I think the key point for all of you, especially as young people, is you should embrace your culture. You should be proud of who you are and your background. And you should appreciate the differences in language and food.

And how you worship God is going to be different, and those are things that you should be proud of. But it shouldn't be a tool to look down on somebody else. It shouldn't be a reason to discriminate.

And you have to make sure that you are speaking out against that in your daily life, and as you emerge as leaders you should be on the side of politics that brings people together rather than drives them apart. (Applause.)

That is the most important thing for this generation.

And part of the way to do that is to be able to stand in other people's shoes, see through their eyes. Almost every religion has within it the basic principle that I, as a Christian, understand from the teachings of Jesus.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat people the way you want to be treated. And if you're not doing that and if society is not respecting that basic principle, then we're going backwards instead of going forward.

And this is true all around the world. And sometimes, it's among groups that those of us on the outside, we look - they look exactly the same. In Northern Ireland, there has been a raging conflict - although they have finally come to arrive at peace - because half or a portion of the population is Catholic, a portion is Protestant.

From the outside, you look - why are they arguing? They're both Irish. They speak the same language. It seems as if they'd have nothing to argue about.

But that's been a part of Ireland that has been held back and is poor and less developed than the part of Ireland that didn't have that conflict.

In Africa, you go to countries - my father's country of Kenya, where oftentimes you've seen tribal conflicts from the outside you'd think, what are they arguing about?

This is a country that has huge potential. They should be growing, but instead they spend all their time arguing and organising politically only around tribe and around ethnicity.

And then, when one gets on top, they're suspicious and they're worried that the other might take advantage of them. And when power shifts, then it's payback.

And we see that in society after society. The most important thing young people can do is break out of that mindset.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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That is an amazing speech and mostly adlibbed. When I hear Obama speak like this and especially when he brings his own background and personal experience to bear, I would think that the ordinary people of Asia would listen and understand. I am quite sure the leaders of Malaysia were not happy with being singled out (rightfully so) as abusers of human rights but then, that is the power a US president has to use his office for good. By the way, his comments are particularly relevant to Thailand's current political impasse.

Posted by Earmuffs on April 28, 2014 12:02

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Can you supply the author of this shadow report -- or a link? Thanks.

Posted by CAM on May 21, 2015 03:23

Editor Comment:

Sorry, UN reports don't always list authors. It should still be somewhere on the UN site.

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Okay: I found it:

Can be cited as: Civil Society Organizatons, "Shadow Report on Thailand's Implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Submission to the UN Committee Against Torture, OHCHR, 10 April 2014, available at
http://goo.gl/usvj9Z.

Posted by CM on May 21, 2015 04:00


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