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Children who spent 13 days at sea and now are back at sea again

Boatpeople Families 'Already Back at Sea'

Thursday, January 3, 2013
PHUKET: The boatpeople families who arrived on Phuket earlier this week after 13 days on the water are already back at sea in another boat, a senior army officer said today.

Phuketwan has also confirmed through independent sources the departure of the 73 men, women and children from the Thai-Burma port of Ranong.

Colonel Manat Kongpan, who heads Thailand's Internal Security Operations Command, Fourth Region, said today the families trucked off Phuket yesterday afternoon had already been placed on another vessel and ''helped on.''

The Thai military were finding women and children with increasing regularity on the boats of Rohingya, he said.

Colonel Manat said the Thai military were intercepting ''two or three'' vessels each week. About 3000 people had been apprehended since this ''sailing season'' began in October, he said.

The families are fleeing continuing racism and persecution in Burma's Rakhine state.

Activists who keep track of departures from Bangladesh and Burma estimate the number of Rohingya who have put to sea since October at more than 10,000.

Colonel Manat said that the present ''help on'' policy in Thailand was designed to assist would-be refugees from Burma reach ''a third country.''

''We treat them well,'' he said. ''We provide them with the best possible boats and provide food, water and fuel.''

Human Rights Watch made a last minute plea today to the Thai Government to prevent the families who came ashore on Phuket from being deported.

An HRW spokesman said this afternoon that they received a positive response from the Government.

However, Phuketwan confirmed through Colonel Manat and other sources today that the Phuket boat families are back on the Andaman Sea.

''They are already with another boat,'' the colonel said, just after noon. Rohingya boatpeople are constantly being apprehended and put back into boats again.

The boat that was intercepted off Phuket on January 1 after a 13-day voyage carried 16 children, with 10 under the age of 10 and some as young as three years old.

The leader of the group told Phuketwan at sea on Tuesday: ''Our families put to sea because there is no hope in Burma. If we stay, we will die.''

Under the present Thai government policy, the boats are intercepted at sea and not allowed to land in Thailand. Instead, they are ''helped on'' with alternative boats, fuel and provisions.

Burma's Asean neighbors - Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia - have refused to intervene to end Burma's persecution of the Rohingya and the ethnic cleasing in Rakhine state since ''communal violence'' broke out in June.

Instead the Asean partners deal in different ways as secretly as possible with thousands of boatpeople whose lives are now being put at risk in greater numbers every day.

International rules regarding refugees are ignored in favor of ad hoc policies designed to pass on the problem, covertly if possible.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


A Preventable Nightmare on Our Shores!

I understand a country not wanting to "just open it's doors" to any refugee wanting to come in, but the policy Thailand now has in place is horrifying! Can you imagine shoving sick little children (or anyone else) back out to sea when in need of assistance? Seasick, malnourished, scarred to death...HORRIFYING! This is going to produce very bad karma back on the Thai people if they continue to enforce this terrible policy. Thank goodness for the human rights groups and media outlets in keeping the world informed, but the real story starts with the cruel dictatorship in the capital of Burma.

Let's not forget that these brutal "leaders" have denied the Rohingya's citizenship for decades, while at the same time encouraging racism and ill treatment from their follow Burmese neighbors. This is the root of the problem and I hope to see more outrage directed at the Burmese on this issue moving forward. Change needs to start at home; but in the mean time I hope that all caring people around the world can keep the pressure on in appealing to the good people of Thailand to change this barbaric "helping-on" treatment of the Rohingya.

David Stonham (USA & Thailand)

Posted by David on January 3, 2013 13:50


Thank you for the numerous pictures.

They help to put a human face on this tragedy instead of just numbers on a sheet of paper.

You can see the desperation, the hopes and dreams, the pain and suffering.

A picture definitely speaks a thousand words.

Thailand sure is no land of smiles to Rohingya.

Posted by Andrew on January 3, 2013 13:59


The faces of those young children - who have no foreseeable future - are haunting.
If you read the stories written by prisoners of the Japanese during WWII, their survival depended largely on the help they got from the locals, who often risked death to give them food and in the case of escapees, shelter and other assistance.
Isn't it time we repaid some of those "favours" to those who are now in need of a little help?

Posted by Phil on January 3, 2013 14:16


This is the Reason President Obama should NOT have been so cordial to Burma.
This has been going on for Years, never mind the recent Ethnic Clensing. So when you wrote "the letter of hope", I knew you wasted your efforts. Why show favoritism to a country like Burma when we go to war to stop dictators like that. ( Saddam Husane )

If I had a voice in Thailand, it would be to create a ( Pit Stop ) Naval Safety Station to help them on their way with proper Medical and food supplies as well as enough fuel to reach their destination. A place to stretch their legs walk on land and lie down without being crowded for 2 to 3 days.

I feel bad for any child that has to live in fear. Children should laugh, play and not have a worry in the world.

Posted by John on January 3, 2013 14:33

Editor Comment:

The sad thing is that compassionate sailors and local police decided the children should not continue on from Phuket because it was too risky and now they have begun the journey again - from 300 kilometres further north.


Thanls a lot to the Phuketwan Editor and reporters for interpreting hopeless Rohingya issue desperately. I would also like to thank David, Andrew and Phil who commented the reality of Rohingya boat people suffering.
I would like to ask global community to stand against the brutal Thien Siein Regime to stop genocide on Rohingya and support our call to deploy UN PEACE KEEPING FORCES. If Rohingyas get international protection and justices today every tragedy will be stopped.
Until and unless the criminals are booked for international tribunal the hue and cry of Rohingyas and Kachin people can not be stopped. You can not see any desperate boat people if the Rohingyas get protection.
We have been asking Thai government to give shelter to the Rohingya boat people on humanitarian ground Under the supervision of UNHCR since 2008.
I heard at that time,the concerned authorities tried to find a place in Ranong. During that time,some NGOs diverted the government's positive step to so called "help boat people " unofficially. Since then "helping boat people " method bred today's big Mafia group of human traffickers .From that time to now Every Rohingigya must have to pay the mafia fee of 2000 USD to get free.
We also ljke to know whereabouts of last group that include some kids and women.

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,President,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand,(BRAT) on January 4, 2013 01:15


The Big Picture

I have not lived in Thailand for more than thirty years. Here in the United States, however, I have met and taught groups of Burmese students who have fled their homeland under the most arduous conditions imaginable. These students all speak glowing of the Thai people, of how the Thais helped in large and small ways in their repatriation to the United States.

Personally I am sympathetic to both the refugees and the Thais. More support needs to be provided by Western nations. In the past the United States took a leading position in this regard. Now, however, we have lost our way with endemic corruption at home and endless warfare abroad. It is patently unfair and unrealistic to expect Thailand to resolve Burma's ongoing racial problems all by itself. Democracies throughout the world need to band together and do what is right. Otherwise, this vicious and inhumane treatment of human beings will continue unabated.

Posted by Xmas on January 5, 2013 20:48

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