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The girl born stateless in Thailand: her mother arrived one year ago today

Massacres, Rapes Drive Exodus of Boatpeople Through Thailand

Friday, January 17, 2014
PHUKET: One year ago today, a group of 88 bedraggled Rohingya came ashore in Thailand and were quickly sorted: males and teenage boys destined for Immigration centres, females and children for family shelters.

In the days and weeks that followed, more boatloads were apprehended and officials raided secret traffickers' camps. It was Thailand's intention to sort the status and futures of the more than 2000 ''rescued'' Rohingya boatpeople over the next six months.

Twice that time has passed. Thailand's good intentions have collapsed, and only a few of the Rohingya can still be found in Thailand. The rest? They have ''escaped'' or been trafficked out of Thailand.

The reason why the family groups fled from the village near Debeng, near Sittwe in Burma's troubled Rakhine state, more than a year ago was the violence perpetrated on the Muslim minority by their Buddhist neighbors.

Soldiers and police offered no protection. Among the boatpeople who arrived on January 17 last year was a woman with two daughters who had been, they said, subjected to rape almost daily by men in uniform.

Burmese soldiers and local police held the Rohingya of Debeng powerless at gunpoint while their Buddhist neighbors torched their homes, the newly-arrived boatpeople said.

The number of women and children being held in the Khao Lak family shelter, north of Phuket, built up to 72. Of those, only five remain, a mother and her children.

The only reason they are still in Thailand is because she had recently given birth when a group of other women and children fled into the arms of traffickers, who eventually carried them to Malaysia for a fee.

The woman no longer knows where her husband might be.

He was taken with the other males to detention in Immigration and later vanished with the other men, either in a fake ''escape'' or trafficked back to brokers as Immigration officials pretended to deport them back to Burma.

The father has never seen his latest child, a daughter.

She was born stateless in a Thai hospital to a mother who would like to be a citizen of her homeland, Burma, but who has little hope of ever achieving that milestone. Other women and children have arrived at the shelter in the intervening 12 months and disappeared just as quickly.

Today the family of five and another Rohingya woman and her son remain at the family shelter, along with six young teenage boys, who are all orphans.

Without relatives to pay the price traffickers ask for being transferred across the border to Malaysia, the boys are considered vulnerable to violence or abuse. One teenager, just a few years older, was reported to have beaten to death in Malaysia just weeks ago.

Reports from Burma today tell of another alleged massacre in which a dozen or more people were killed in the village of Duchidaran, according to rights groups and a resident. The boatloads of Rohingya are bound to keep sailing.


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