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The flimsy vessel that carried 68 boatpeople to Phuket

UNHCR Given Access to Thailand's Captive Boatpeople

Thursday, February 10, 2011
THE UNITED NATIONS refugee agency has been granted access to 135 would-be refugees - probably Rohingya - who are being held in Thailand.

The access granted by the Foreign Ministry comes amid renewed alarm about the treatment of large numbers of boatpeople by Thai authorities.

Officials of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees remain ''gravely concerned'' about media reports that a boatload of 91 possible asylum seekers in the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands may have begun their most recent voyage involuntarily from Thailand.

Kitty McKinsey, senior regional public information officer, UNHCR Bureau for Asia and the Pacific says of the 135 now acknowledged as being held in Thailand: ''We are getting good cooperation.''

A UNHCR team is expected to head for the southern centre of Songkhla next week to talk to 58 men and nine boys who arrived on the coast of southern Thailand on January 23, the second of three boats to reach Phuket or the Andaman coast within nine days.

Nine boys aged under 15 from the second boat have been taken into the care of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. One was previously said to be 12 years old.

The UNHCR will interview the boatpeople in Songkhla and others being held at present in Phuket and the neighboring province of Phang Nga to determine whether they are from Burma or Bangladesh.

''There's a presumption that all Rohingya are refugees,'' Ms McKinsey said. However, Rohingya are officially prohibited from applying in Thailand for refugee status.

One group of Rohingya, apprehended in Thailand more than two years ago, remains in detention in Bangkok.

If it is established that the 91 men now on the Andaman and Nicobar islands are proven to have been victims of a ''push back'' by Thai authorities, Thailand can expect condemnation from human rights bodies as well as India and Indonesia, where survivors from the first notorious ''pushbacks'' came ashore after hundreds of others drowned or starved in 2008-2009.

The same local authorities who deny 35 boatpeople are being held north of Phuket, in neighboring Phang Nga, are reported to have inquired about whether their captives could be deported to Burma through the border town of Mae Sot, and complained about the cost of providing the unwanted inmates with two meals a day.

Rohingya are not recognised as citizens of Burma and flee south by sea towards Malaysia in large numbers on rickety vessels out of fear and desperation. The UN regards them as among the world's most persecuted people.

Latest Boatpeople Timetable

January 20 Thai Navy intercepts and ''helps on'' Rohingya boat, Navy officer later tells Phuketwan
January 22 First boatload of 91 would-be refugee arrives in Trang, southern Thailand
January 23 Second boatload of 67 would-be refugees arrives in Satun, southern Thailand
January 24 Group of 55 from first boatload transferred from southern Thailand to Ranong Immigration, on Thai-Burma border.
January 25 Group of 36 from first boatload transferred from southern Thailand to Ranong. Ranong Immigration denies it is holding Rohingya. Documents refer to ''Burmese from the south''
January 31 Third boatload of 68 arrive on holiday island of Phuket.
February 1 Nine boys under 15 from second boatload separated and handed over to care of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security
February 5-6 Starving group of 91 boatpeople found in Andaman and Nicobar islands
February 7 Group of 35 Rohingya transferred at night from Phuket to Phang Nga: Phang Nga officials deny receiving them
February 10 UNHCR granted permission to access 135 boatpeople being held in Thailand: mystery remains over origins of 91 rescued in Andaman and Nicobar islands
Be Honest About Missing Boatpeople, Rights Group Tells Thailand: BBC Reports 'Pushback' Claims
Latest With a boatload of starving men cast away on remote Indian islands, Human Rights Watch says the Thai Government should be honest about boatpeople arrivals - and departures.
Be Honest About Missing Boatpeople, Rights Group Tells Thailand: BBC Reports 'Pushback' Claims

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

Burmese Accuse Thai Officials of People Trafficking
Latest Burmese caught working illegally in Phuket and along the Andaman coast are taken back to the border town of Ranong, where two Burmese say officials are involved in people trafficking.
Burmese Accuse Thai Officials of People Trafficking

Phuket Pair Win Top Asia Pacific Reporting Awards
Latest Phuketwan's editorial team pick up two top journalism prizes at Asia Pacific awards: for Excellence in Investigative Reporting and for Excellence in Human Rights Reporting.
Phuket Pair Win Top Asia Pacific Reporting Awards


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I congratulate phuket for endeavors played for Rohingyas and finally got UNHCR access to the Rohingya boat people who have been arrested by Thai authority.

Posted by NRAbdur Rashid on February 10, 2011 23:47


How can Thailand not recognise these people are refugees?
There must be some dirty underhanded tactics going on between Thailand and Burma.

Posted by Tbs on February 11, 2011 09:22


Every country has a right to decide who can enter and who will be pushed away.

Posted by Anonymous on February 11, 2011 13:18

Editor Comment:

Not if it involves putting lives at risk they don't

Tuesday October 27, 2020
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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