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A Phuketwan journalist being assisted through the jungle near a secret camp

Secret Gulags Confirmed by News Agency

Thursday, December 5, 2013
PHUKET: A long-awaited report from the Reuters news agency confirms today that thousands of Rohingya boatpeople are being transited through Thailand in a covert and abusive smuggling operation.

The report from three countries adds substance to Tuesday's Phuketwan world exclusive, revealing claims that boatpeople are dying daily in secret camps in Thailand, with women and children subjected to abuse in appalling conditions.

Like a Phuketwan correspondent, journalists from Reuters clambered through rough jungle, reputedly patrolled by armed guards, to confirm the existence of at least one camp in southern Thailand.

It's likely that the two accounts of ''tropical gulags'' will trigger consequences for the Thai officials heavily involved in the trafficking, and for Thailand when the US Trafficking in Persons report reappraises Thailand's ranking next year.

Just days ago we talked to one escaper near the village of Baan Chalung who told us of 16 deaths in a secret camp in 14 days, adding: ''Rohingya die every day.''

Phuketwan also carried out an operation to observe the suspicious treatment of refugees by Immigration officers in the Thai-Burma border port of Ranong in October.

From Ranong, based on our investigations, we believe Immigration officers pretend to transfer hundreds of refugees back to Burma but secretly ship them to traffickers.

It is not clear where the money goes.

Reuters takes the allegations today to a number of officials in Thailand who do not deny that a secret process is in place.

Back in 2009, Phuketwan journalists, working with the South China Morning Post newspaper, exposed the covert ''pushbacks'' of Rohingya at sea in which hundreds died, bringing that secret and inhumane process to an end.

The new secret process being carried out by Thai officials in 2013 remains just as inhumane, with claims of torture, rape, beatings and killings now adding to the horror.

Corpses, we believe, are disposed of in the jungle.

Alarmingly, many Thai organisations - including human rights advocacy groups - have been complicit in remaining silent about what is happening, out of misplaced concern for Thailand's international reputation.

Colonel Thanakrit Promdonchart, Superintendent of the Padang Besar Immigration office, which is near at least four secret camps, told us yesterday: ''All Rohingya in cells in Padang Besar have been transferred to Ranong Immigration. We have to follow the policy of the Government. Ask the Government in Bangkok for details.''

We next telephoned Colonel Eakkorn Bhudsasabordin, Superintendent of Ranong Immigration, who told us: ''About the Rohingya, my commander in Bangkok says we are not permitted to provide information to the media because this is an issue of national stability. My apologies.''

Reuters, covering the issue as only an international news organisation can, was given more illuminating answers in its long investigation.

Tarit Pengdith, chief of the Department of Special Investigation, Thailand's equivalent of the US FBI, said: ''We have heard about these camps in southern Thailand, but we are not investigating this issue.''

Major General Chatchawal of the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok admitted there was an unofficial policy to deport the Rohingya to Burma (Myanmar). ''In the past, and I stress in the past, there may have been cases of officials taking payments for handing over migrants to boats,'' he said. ''I am not ruling it out, but I don't know of any specific cases recently.''

Back in October, Colonel Nattasit Maksuwan, the Deputy Chief of the Internal Security Operations Command in Satun province - ISOC protects Thailand's borders - told Phuketwan: ''Your question concerns Immigration, so it's best to talk to them. I understand they are uncomfortable right now.

''The issue is, why do we have to keep the Rohingya in Thailand? Holding them costs nearly three million baht every month.

''There is no reason to keep them. We might as well let them go to Malaysia. We can give them food and water and help them to get there.''

He was speaking about the remainder of the 2200 Rohingya being held in ''protective custody'' after being arrested in traffickers' camps or at sea from January to March.

Those ''rescued'' Rohingya have now mostly disappeared, into the arms of traffickers. His comment, we suspect, also applies to the thousands of Rohingya now fleeing Burma by boat, seeking to reach Malaysia, but in many cases being intercepted by the Thai military.

Colonel Kan Thamakasem, the Superintendent of Immigration in Songkhla province, and Colonel Banpot Kittiveera, Deputy in Songkhla Immigration, deferred questions about Rohingya to Bangkok.

There will be more questions than ever before being asked today in Bangkok about the Rohingya in Thailand.

Exposed: Thailand's Tropical Gulags for Rohingya

SPECIAL REPORT-Thailand secretly dumps Myanmar refugees into trafficking rings

Thailand's Secret Trafficking Camps, Where Boatpeople Are Being Beaten, Raped and Killed, Say Escapers


Comments have been disabled for this article.


PhuketWan, I highly appreciate your continua efforts to keep the Rohingya boat people in the news. Also your other news is in general from high value, fast & highly appreciated & informative. I do hope Phuketwan has found a solid financial base to keep doing so for the coming year(s). We need you to keep us aware what is going on in and around Phuket, Thailand and neighboring countries. PhuketWan contributes a lot to our awareness of what is going well and wrong in and around Phuket and it fact finding & reporting them leads to needed changes. I hope you can & will keep doing so in 2014 and further future.

Posted by PhuketExpat on December 5, 2013 10:12

Editor Comment:

Thank you. Regrettably, Phuketwan's future is by no means assured.


Someone send this to Rihanna for a re-tweet please.

Posted by Jakub P. on December 5, 2013 10:52


Shame on you Thailand, good work & lets hope this goes someway to fixing the terrible situation!

Posted by paul on December 5, 2013 10:56


This ugly story very much reminds me of the Vietnamese boat people trying to get to Malaysian refugee camps. I had Vietnamese boat people working for me for many years in Canada and the stories they told were chilling. The greatest fear was being stopped by Thai pirates. They would steal everything, rape the women, abduct the best looking to be used as on board sex slaves, stab and butcher the rest and more often than not, sink the boat with the survivors aboard. Who were these pirates? Your normal smiling Thai fisherman. also see Wikipedia
Have a read, it is almost an exact repeat of the Rohingya horror. History tells us that Thais cannot be trusted to manage the Rohingya tragedy in any way. The Thai gov was complicit in the Viet boat people piracy and exploitation crisis and never prosecuted any Thais even though it was an open secret who were the perpetrators. About 300,000 Viet boat people died in total. The scandal was so great that the US Navy was sent to patrol the South China Sea along with the Australians, Malaysians and others. The only navy that should have been there was the Thai navy and it never patrolled. You can blame savage uneducated fishermen but the army was totally complicit as were immigration, police and officials at the very top of Thai government. It is time for the UNCHR to step in and set up an internationally run and financed refugee camp as they did with the Vietnamese. I would suggest in Bangladesh or Andaman Islands.

Posted by Earmuffs on December 5, 2013 12:15

Editor Comment:

Unlike Vietnam, where the exodus was the result of a war, the Rohingya exodus comes as a result of racism in Burma. Thailand and the US have the power to call on Burma to end the racism. Tacitly supporting the ethnic cleansing by setting up refugee camps is the wrong thing to do. Burma is to blame and should be called on to conform to normal international standards of religious tolerance.


@paul, I assume we all hope this hienious trafficing in human life is STOPPED, sadly though, even after the trafficing aroung Phang Nga was exposed, and only two peolple, one a policeman, were charged, nothing seems to changed, little news of any investigation and now we have this report, which to the casual reader seems that things have escalated where more Rohingya are trafficked and more officials involved.

Posted by DSI Watcher on December 5, 2013 12:22



Posted by Media Watch on December 5, 2013 12:42

Editor Comment:

This appears to be your first post, so you must be a different ''Media Watch'' to our familiar Media Watcher. Credibility is your problem, not ours.
Please read and absorb our policy on comments: PHUKETWAN hereby alters its policy on the posting of Comments and bans whingers, whiners, do-nothings, dingbats, doomsayers, carpers, harpers and kooks. This list may grow with time. Constructive ideas and new pieces of information remain welcome.


Good this disgusting trade has been exposed to the public. The slave traffic with Rohingya men sold for working on Thai fishing boats, has been going on for years. I've heard terrible stories from one of the few, who were fortunate enough to escape alive from these boats.

Posted by Sherlock on December 5, 2013 12:54


Of course the Burmese gov is at fault. Their aim is ethnic cleansing and despite all the best efforts and pressure of the USA and Europe, it has been going on for years. Suki has been a BIG disappointment. So apart from invading Burma, to stem the flow of death, refugee camps are the only practical solution. It is only a temporary solution I admit but so were the Vietnamese refugee camps and it took 15 years to resettle everyone in that case.

Posted by earmuffs on December 5, 2013 13:29

Editor Comment:

Refugee camps are not a ''practical solution,'' but a panacea, and an encouragement to the Burmese government to continue ethnic cleansing. (Sorry, earmuffs, your historical accounts are almost longer than the original articles.)



Every day captives die.Yesterday morning I was informed one died at the trafficker's camp . Four beautiful women are gang raped around the clock despite their relatives paid 7000 Ringit (Malaysian currency) to the traffickers.The unlucky Rohingya women /girls are not get released because of sexual enjoyment by the traffickers. The captives are served stream water , less food ,mosquitoes bite ,no medicines, sleep on wet places causes daily deaths. Most of detainees release who caught again by traffickers are naturally sick and have no resistance power in their bodies .The new comers are all so very weak due to their long voyage to Thailand. As an activist I receive heart bleeding news from different areas.Many captives news are unknown and guess that they were already sold to fishing trawlers and some already died in the jungle. The solution is only protect them in their birth place by deploying UN Peace Keeping Forces. If not the Rohingya boat people tragedies at the traffickers concentration camps will be continued. We are so helpless and we don't know how to solve this humanitarian crisis. The Burmese Rohingya Association ,BRAT, members have knocked UN doors many times since June 2012 and only asking for the deployment of UNPKF to protect the Rohingyas from genocide. We didn't see any action from Mr.Ban Ki Moon except a few condemning resolutions from UNGA. He is well aware about solving genocidal cases through convening UN Security Council UNSC meeting and urgent sending Peace Keeping Forces in Arakan. Due to UN failure of timely action ,our Rohingyas are experiencing untold losses inside and out side of our country.We are ardently appealing towards the civil society of the world to save the Rohingyas from extinction from the earth. Rohingya situation is so dire everywhere and we feel very friendless .

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,President,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand (BRAT) on December 9, 2013 04:32

Thursday May 23, 2024
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