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Would-be refugee boatpeople on Phuket last week: where are they now?

Thailand's Rohingya Vanish: Spectre of Pushbacks Nightmare

Tuesday, February 8, 2011
UPDATE

AS MANY as 91 ''Bangladeshi migrants'' have been found in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, police officials have told the News of India service. According to police almost all of them were starving and 25 of them have been admitted to hospital. The Thai navy intercepted the boat, police have been told. "We were kept in a dark room with minimum food and after nearly seven to eight days they set us adrift in open sea in an engine-less boat with minimum possible ration and water," one of the migrants reportedly said.

Original Report

MYSTERY surrounds the whereabouts of 126 Rohingya boatpeople who have landed in southern Thailand in the past three weeks and have the right to seek refugee status.

The men and boys would expect to be mistreated if sent back to Burma. Their disappearance is likely to perturb the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and non-government organisations.

Some Immigration offices in southern Thailand acknowledge that they have Rohingya boatpeople in custody, but officials at the Immigration centre at Ranong, on the Thai-Burma border, deny they are holding a boatload of 91 Rohingya males.

On the popular international holiday island of Phuket, where a boatload of 68 landed eight days ago, Immigration officers say they are continuing to hold 33 Rohingya but have sent 35 others north to the neighboring province of Phang Nga.

Officials at Immigration in Phang Nga, however, say they have no knowledge of the group.

In the southern city of Songkhla, where Immigration officials acknowledge they are holding 67 males from the second boatload of Rohingya to reach southern Thailand recently, nine under-age males are being given special protection by local social development authorities, an Immigration spokeswoman said today.

The whereabouts of the entire first boatload of 91, which arrived in southern Thailand on January 23, and 35 of the 68 from the Phuket boatload remain a mystery today.

A reliable source has told Phuketwan that the 91 Rohingya from the first boatload that arrived on the coast of Trang on January 22 were trucked north to Ranong, but that they were described in paperwork as ''Burmese from the south [of Thailand].''

A reliable source has said that the 67 in the second boatload were at one stage on their way north to Ranong, but their bus turned back when authorities in Ranong reported that journalists were waiting to greet them.

The three boatloads, totalling 226 men and boys, represent the first Rohingya to land in Thailand since the notorious ''pushback'' policy was revealed by Phuketwan and the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong in January 2009.

Hundreds of Rohingya are believed to have perished when the Thai military covertly towed boats out to international waters and released them, with no power and little food and water.

Immigration officials in Ranong also have a poor record in dealing with Rohingya. Two teenagers from the first boatload to land in Thailand after the repulsive ''pushbacks'' were revealed died in custody in Ranong.

The surviving members of the boatload were kept indoors for months without exercise or sunlight, so that some were bent double when they were eventually transferred to better conditions at the main detention centre in Bangkok - where they are still being held more than two years later.

The colonel who was in charge at Ranong Immigration in 2009 told Phuketwan that the Rohingya being held there were being treated well and preferred being held there to their perilous sea voyage in quest of a better life.

Rohingya are persecuted in Burma and likely to be treated badly by the junta government if they are returned. UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic last week reiterated a call for access to the Rohingya being held in Thailand.

''We would like to assess whether there are people among them who might be refugees and might be in need of international protection,'' he said.
Phuket Boatpeople: UNHCR Renews Call for Access
Latest The perilous journey down the coast may be over for boatpeople fleeing persecution in Burma but being apprehended in Thailand does not mean the danger is over.
Phuket Boatpeople: UNHCR Renews Call for Access

Phuket Immigration Denies Rohinga 'Repatriation'
Latest Immigration authorities on Phuket say that no decision has been made yet about the future of a boatload of Rohingya captured on the island. Reports of 'repatriation' appear premature.
Phuket Immigration Denies Rohinga 'Repatriation'

More Phuket Boatpeople! About 68 Rohingya Land on Phuket in Two Groups
Breaking News UPDATE About 68 Rohingya in two groups have been apprehended after the first boatpeople waded ashore on a quiet part of Phuket near a luxury five-star resort.
More Phuket Boatpeople! About 68 Rohingya Land on Phuket in Two Groups

Rip-Offs and Rohingya: No End to Phuket Surprises
News Analysis With Rohingya and ripoffs, there's just no end to what can be encountered on a Phuket beach. The big question remains: what will Thailand's refugee policy be next?
Rip-Offs and Rohingya: No End to Phuket Surprises

Second Rohingya Boat Lands South of Phuket
Boatpeople crisis A second vessel carrying stateless Rohingya brings to more than 150 the number who have landed on Thailand's Andaman coast in a new wave of arrivals.
Second Rohingya Boat Lands South of Phuket

Rohingya Boat, 91 Held on Andaman Coast: Seven More Boats May Be at Sea
Breaking News A boatload of would be Rohingya refugees is apprehended on Thailand's Andaman coast, and Phuketwan believes as many as seven more boats could be sailing south.
Rohingya Boat, 91 Held on Andaman Coast: Seven More Boats May Be at Sea

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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http://netindian.in/news/2011/02/07/00010736/91-bangladeshi-migrants-found-car-nicobar-coast
quote ....on their way they were apprehended by the Thai navy.
"We were kept in a dark room with minimum food and after nearly seven to eight days they set us adrift in open sea in an engine-less boat with minimum possible ration and water," one of the migrants reportedly told the Police in Car Nicobar. unquote

Posted by guy on February 8, 2011 17:31

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Should be thinking of passing this on the United Nations? Just a thought.

Posted by Lee on February 8, 2011 18:59

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Thai don't want them here! you can ask any Thai, they will all say, send them back! You expats who complain, this is not your country!

If you want them, open the door to your own house and pay themselves out of your pocket!

Posted by Mike on February 9, 2011 15:01

Editor Comment:

Mike, exclamation marks make it look as though you've always had to shout to be heard. There's no need to shout.

If you'd noted the byline on this story, you will have seen that one of us is Thai and one is an expat. Whether Rohingya are wanted in Thailand or not, the solution to boatpeople arriving unexpectedly is not to push them back out to sea. Knowing so much about Thais, you will not need to be told that good Buddhists do not kill.

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With a name like Mike, I am assuming you are an expat. Unless you have citizenship here in Thailand, you cannot speak for Thais. The boat people need to be heard by Thailand and the UN (I have already emailed the UN concerning this).

"You expats who complain, this is not your country!" (Is it yours?) I don't think it is your country either, can you tell us if you are expat or Thai?

"If you want them, open the door to your own house and pay themselves out of your pocket." Are you willing to do this? I think food and places to sleep is enough. I think many people would contribute to this.

Posted by Lee on February 9, 2011 16:19

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So much for Thai Buddhist 'metta' (loving kindness). I keep on trying to remember when I last heard something positive coming out of Thailand. I think it must have been when they banned smoking in restaurants.

Posted by Tourist by Profession on February 9, 2011 17:03


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