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Young survivor of the container truck tragedy, detained in Ranong

Boat People Update: DSI Pursues Traffickers

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
People Smuggling Latest

THE DEPARTMENT of Special Investigations is becoming involved with the issue of the Rohingya boat people as the emphasis shifts to catching the people smugglers and wiping out the trade in human beings.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said after a two-hour meeting with DSI leaders in Bangkok today that the so-called ''brokers'' were a key cause of the latest problems posed by large numbers of people in boats arriving in Thailand.

DSI investigations are expected to concentrate on the border township of Ranong in Thailand, long a reputed centre for people-smuggling.

Trafficking in Burmese laborers led to the deaths of 54 smuggled immigrants who suffocated inside a container truck on the road south to Phuket in 2007.

Seventy-eight Rohingya are now being held in Ranong by Immigration authorities, although when Phuketwan called to check yesterday on the captives, a spokesman refused to confirm their presence in the local detention centre.

The Rohingya being held in Ranong were the first group of boat people since late November to escape capture by the Thai army and be dealt with instead by Thailand's courts.

A series of articles in Phuketwan and the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong last month exposed the involvement of the Thai army in apprehending and holding hundreds of boat people in a barbed-wire pen on a remote island off the province of Ranong.

The army at first denied any direct connection, but later admitted to training and arming local villagers to play a paramilitary role in putting the boat people back to sea.

Hundreds died as a result. Investigations now centre on what survivors say was brutal treatment on the beach at the island of Sai Daeng, and on whether the people were set adrift in expectation that they would perish at sea.

Military spokesmen have said the Rohingya were given food and water, but no motors for their boats.

The change in Thailand's strategy in dealing with the boat people came after the arrival of an Internal Security Operation Command colonel from the troubled Deep South of Thailand in October.

Some of those who survived being set adrift ended up in Indonesia, where Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiwa will hold talks on the Rohingya with his Indonesian counterpart on Friday or Saturday.

The PM's attendance at an Asean conference on Phuket on Sunday, as anticipated by Phuketwan, has been confirmed.

Thailand's army Commander in Chief, General Anupong Paojinda, was expected to also hold talks on the Rohingya with Burma's military supremo, Senior General Than Shwe, during his visit to Burma.

The fate of the boat people and their future is also likely to be a topic when the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations meets in Hua Hin later this month.

On Phuket, the DSI is best known for its pursuit of title deed frauds in the land scandals that periodically disturb the local property industry.

So heavy is the commitment to investigations on the island that a ''branch office'' is planned.

Latest Reports: Rohingya in the Andaman

Update: PM Admits Boat People Towed to Sea
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says he believes there were 'instances' of Rohingya boats being pushed out to sea. The word 'atrocities' is used in a headline.
PM Admits Boat People Towed to Sea

Boat People Deaths 'Exaggerated by Trafficker'
An alleged people smuggler among the latest group of boat people to arrive in Indonesia exaggerated the survival account, according to a human rights group. Racism appears to be a problem, too.
Boat People Deaths 'Exaggerated by Trafficker'

Phuket's New Rohingya: Bought from a Smuggler
Phuket's community of Rohingya is small but growing. The latest arrivals have been purchased from a people smuggler in a humanitarian effort by a poor Muslim community.
Phuket's New Rohingya: Bought from a Smuggler

Fisherman Tells of Barbed Wire and Fear
Rohingya boat people have been coming in their thousands since 2006 to the Andaman coast. A fisherman with a key hand in their detention on a mystery island tells his story.
Fisherman Tells of Barbed Wire and Fear

Dr Pornthip: 'PM Asked Me to Check Boat People'
Latest Photo Album
Thailand's top forensic scientist says she has been asked by the Prime Minister to investigate the issue of Rohingya boat people. The latest 66 arrivals have been jailed.
Dr Pornthip: 'PM Asked Me to Check Boat People'

Boat People in Thailand: Phuketwan Reports
Fresh Tourist Snapshots
The torment of the Rohingya boat people was brought to the world's attention by Phuketwan. Now we look forward to Thailand restoring its good reputation.
Boat People in Thailand: Phuketwan Reports


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