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Rohingya boat people under arrest on the Andaman coast

Thailand Told: 'Stop Army Mistreating Boat People'

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Photo Album Above

THE WASHINGTON-BASED organisation Refugees International has called on the Thai Government to ''instruct its Army to desist from its new and troubling policy of pushing refugees and migrants intercepted on boats back out to sea.''

The call from the respected international NGO follows a series of reports in Phuketwan and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong that confirmed the Army was secretly holding Rohingya boat people on an Andaman island, then releasing them at sea.

Reporters from Phuketwan established that the Army, despite denials, was carrying out the morally indefensible process of releasing refugees at night in international waters, with only paddles for power.

The Royal Thai Navy, marine police, Immigration, regular police and local officials along the Andaman coast have been instructed to hand over boat people to the Army.

The Army then takes them to Koh Sai Dang (Red Sand) island and, once they have recovered from their harrowing voyage south from Burma or Bangladesh, releases them in secret in international waters.

Hundreds of boat people have been released in this manner since the Army took control of the repatriation process in early December.

Koh Sai Dang is one of scores of small islands off Thailand's Andaman coast, a well-known and extremely popular tropical tourist destination for holidaymakers and divers, which includes Phuket and Khao Lak.

Ironically, the same Andaman coast where the refugees are apprehended and kept in secret was labeled the 'Luxury Destination of the Year' in Sunday's issue of the New York Times.

The full text of the Refugees International media release is as follows:

Thai Government Recklessly Imperils Migrant and Refugee Lives
Mon, 01/12/2009

Policy of Pushing Boat People Out To Sea Must End Immediately

Washington, D.C. - The Government of Thailand should instruct its Army to desist from its new and troubling policy of pushing refugees and migrants intercepted on boats back out to sea. The boat people are primarily stateless Burmese Rohingya escaping severe oppression and harsh poverty at home, but also include some Bangladeshi migrants. Both groups board boats of varying seaworthiness with the aim of finding security and economic opportunity in Thailand and Malaysia. The Thai government is detaining them on a remote island and then forcing them back out to sea. The policy endangers their lives, and exposes them to the risk of capsizing or sinking.

''The Thai government is taking highly vulnerable people and risking their lives for political gain,'' said Advocate Sean Garcia. ''It should be engaging the Burmese government on improving conditions at home for the Rohingya if it wants to stem these flows. The Rohingya will continue to make the journey because they have no hope for a better life in Burma. Pushing them back out to sea is not an effective deterrent - it just jeopardizes lives.''

Press reports indicate that Thai authorities are first detaining boat migrants on an undisclosed island in the Andaman Sea before forcing them back on to boats. There are further reports that in three cases the Thai army has removed the boats' engines before towing them out to sea. One of the boats has capsized, with four confirmed deaths and as many as 300 still missing. Another boat was rescued and turned over to the Thai authorities. Its passengers are now at risk of being pushed out again.

The actions of the Thai government contravene accepted standards of international law that discourage putting civilians at greater risk after being in the custody of government officials. The Thai authorities should, at a minimum, revert to the practice of deporting undocumented migrants. Thai officials should also ensure that refugees seeking asylum are properly screened and are not forced back to their country of origin if it will put them at risk.

''The Rohingya are stateless and have no rights inside Burma. The Burmese government targets them for forced labor and extortion, and restricts their movement,'' added Advocate Sean Garcia. ''The Burmese government's policy of actively displacing the Rohingya from their homeland means that any refugee who is forced back is subject to arrest and abuse. Until the Rohingya are recognized by Burma as citizens, neighboring countries like Thailand must protect and assist this vulnerable population.''

Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. In November 2008, Refugees International staff conducted a mission to Bangladesh and Malaysia to assess the humanitarian conditions for Burmese Rohingya refugees, including boat migrants. There are approximately 1 million Rohingya living outside Burma. For more information, go to

All About the Army's 'Exile Island'

Phuketwan Voyages to Secret Exile Island
Island Album
The Rohingya keep coming by boat illegally, but a change in tactics means the Army now claim them and keep them in secret on an Andaman island before letting them go out at sea.
Phuketwan Voyages to Secret Exile Island

Exclusive: Secret Rohingya 'Exile Island' Revealed
Photo Album
Concern is increasing about the manner in which Rohingya are being secretly turned back to sea off Thailand after first being detained on an Andaman island
Exclusive: Secret Rohingya 'Exile Island' Revealed

In Pictures: Arrest of the Rohingya

Photo Special: Phuket Navy Holds Burmese Muslims
Photo Exclusive
The first astonishing photos of hundreds of Burmese Rohingya attempting to enter Thai waters are on Phuketwan now, as chronicled by the Royal Thai Navy.
Photo Special: Phuket Navy Holds Burmese Muslims

'Starving' Boatloads: Phuket Call for UN Action
World Exclusive
Hundreds of hungry boat people are being apprehended north of Phuket, prompting a call for United Nations intervention. Phuketwan exposes the Andaman's serious human rights issue, the Rohingya.
'Starving' Boatloads: Phuket Call for UN Action

Burmese in Thailand: Essential Reading

Exile Island Plan: 200 Burmese in Jail

Crackdown on Burmese as Arrest Numbers Grow

54 Burmese Found Dead in Phuket Bound Container

Deathship Burmese Muslims Forced Back to Border

Andaman Island Sites Readied for Boat People

Burmese Detention Island Cause for Concern

Water and Fire: A Tsunami Reunion


Comments have been disabled for this article.


keep them safe as international communities know ROHINGYA is the most persecuted minority in the world and there is no justice and rights for the ROHINGYA today . So we are earnestly requesting to thai government to take care of them as human beings.

Posted by zayed on January 31, 2013 10:05


what about rohingya who are attacked in malaysia.

Posted by md eliyas on February 1, 2013 16:27

Monday June 24, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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