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Unwanted, the Rohingya babe born stateless on a boat off Thailand

Will Thailand Really Send Children Back?

Sunday, April 28, 2013
News Analysis/ Photo Album Above

PHUKET: The boy born at sea is thriving, just like all the Rohingya children who have spent three months in care at a refuge centre north of Phuket.

They run, they jump, they play football and hang from trees, like very active pieces of fruit.

When these children first came ashore from their rickety Rohingya boats, they were motionless. They did not move much. Their faces were rigid and unsmiling.

This is probably natural when your life is endangered on a perilous voyage, fleeing Burma, the homeland where they are not considered citizens and where violence, rape and brutality are common these days.

The difference in the behavior of the children now is remarkable, as our photographs show.

How long will their happiness last? It's now three months since Thai officials ruled that the Rohingya ''rescued'' from boats and from human trafficking camps would be assessed and their futures decided over a period of six months.

Halfway through, it appears as though little progress has been made. Thai officials are reportedly seeking the help of Burmese officials to determine the status of the 2000 Rohingya being held in detention in Thailand.

There is talk of them being sent back to Burma.

This outcome is unlikely because the Rohingya are not recognised as citizens of Burma, and it's the declared policy of the government to have them leave Burma for other countries.

To have them sent back would fly in the face of logic and defy every definition of a refugee.

These people were driven from Burma in fear of their lives. Some of them have told Phuketwan that they were systematically raped by Burmese soldiers.

Other saw relatives killed. Most have been burned from their homes. Many fled to sea because they feared they faced certain death if they stayed.

And Thailand's answer is to send them back? We find that prospect to be poorly conceived and outrageous when human rights in the 21st century are considered.

We cannot imagine the fear and dread that would replace the smiles of the 72 women and children at the refuge centre in Phang Nga, north of Phuket.

The Rohingya menfolk, so we are told, are faring differently. They have no reason to smile. Conditions in the Immigration centres where they are being held vary.

We are told that the worst conditions of all are faced by the Rohingya men who are being held at Ranong Immigration, on the border with Burma, north of Phuket and Phang Nga.

There, we are told, about 100 remain captive in a room without sunlight and with little space to move. The Ranong Immigration centre is intended for the speedy repatriation of people to Burma, not for long-term detention.

In 2009, a group of Rohingya were held in similar conditions. Two teenagers died in custody.

When the survivors were eventually transferred to a more acceptable centre in Bangkok, some of them emerged bent double and barely able to walk.

Is this still acceptable in Thailand in 2013? We hope not.

A cavalcade of VIPs arrived at Ranong Immigration centre today, escorted by police with flashing lights, while we were outside.

We suspect it had nothing to do with the plight of the people whose treatment inside is, so we are told, a long way from that accorded to VIPs, or even everyday people.

However, like the stateless and unwanted Rohingya, we live in hope. Perhaps tomorrow will bring reason, humanity, and a solution.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Common sense dictates that (their parents) having not integrated into one dominant Buddhist country, means they would not integrate into Thailand. Malaysia should be paid to take them by the UNHCR.

Posted by Jon on April 28, 2013 12:13

Editor Comment:

How odd, Jon. You think they ''haven't integrated'' into the land where they've been living for at least 400 years? Somehow the victims are responsible for the hate crimes perpetrated on them? Wow. There a huge gap in your ability to sort right from wrong.


Ed, I agree with Jon, the best solution is that they go to a muslim country either Malaysia or Indonesia. If we look at the current troubles in the world The Middle East, including Afganistan, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, here in Sothern Thailand these are all Muslim created conflicts. Therefore they have a better chance of integration and being accepted amongst their own religion. Muslims tend to want to change non Muslim countries even in the UK many Muslims want Sharia law but the UK is a Christian country. Ed in your own country look at the words of your current Prime Minister Julia Gillard: ???I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali , we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians. ???This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom??? We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society . Learn the language!???

???Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture. ???We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.???

???This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, ???THE RIGHT TO LEAVE???.???

Posted by Fiesty Farang on April 28, 2013 13:37

Editor Comment:

The world's problems are caused not by Muslims but by racists, bigots and the ignorant. You score at least two out of three, FF. Muslims and Buddhists live contentedly side by side all along Thailand's Andaman coast. As you are a racist/bigot and ignorant, perhaps that's sufficient reason fort you to migrate to Burma. There are plenty like you there. How sad and shameful that you appear to consider yourself Christian and intelligent. You sound like some raving lunatic on a late-night train. Please take the hint. Burma at present definitely seems your kind of place.


To think that the western world wants to give this genocidal country and it's government the noble peace prize? For what, Rape, Brutality, Genocide and Human Trafficking?

Posted by Inepto Cracy on April 28, 2013 13:44

Editor Comment:

The ''prizes'' for ignoring those things are greater than the ''prizes'' for acknowledging them.


Ed I am impressed that you have given free speech here by printing my earlier comment but there is no need to personally attack me. If you look at any cosmopolitan society with many religions, nationalities the radicals are by far mostly Muslims this is fact and how ever you respond will not change that. My comment is meant to actually help the Rohingya as they will feel more at home in a Muslim country from the religious standpoint. Clearly over several hundred years they have not adapted to Burma's culture. Many do not even speak the language. I am not Australian or living in Australia and I am not Christian as you say. Think about if the Rohingya will be better in Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on April 28, 2013 14:54

Editor Comment:

Ah, so radicalism is the problem, not religion. Now there's an admission coming from someone who gave the appearance of being a radical Christian zealot. The Rohingya will be comfortable in Burma, FF. Once the ignorant, the racists and the bigots acknowledge and accept the need for tolerance. They are Burmese, deprived of their rightful home by racism, bigotry and ignorance. Cultures adapt. Once, Britain's traditional meal was roast beef. The Rohingya will be best off in their homeland - Burma. Your argument mindlessly supports the racists, the bigots and the ignorant. Removing the Rohingya is what they want.


Ed, you clearly have not researched the history of the problems in Burma. The 'Rohingya' as they claim to be were actually imported labour by the British, and subsequently abandoned in 1947. The Burmese, as well as many Thais blame the British for this refugee problem as they see these people as illegal immigrants. Hence why the Thai policy is to send them south. Of course not the south of Thailand...where the Muslims have slaughtered thousands.

Posted by Alan on April 28, 2013 15:52

Editor Comment:

The flaw is in your research, Alan. You're parroting the propaganda spread by the Burmese Government to justify their ethnic cleansing. We've met people who go back four generations, and there are others who go back much further. Your comments about Burma and Thailand are ill-informed and misguided.


I do think FF has a point here, it's very difficult to write about these things in a diplomatic way without everyone shouting racist and bigot, I am sure that was not what FF wanted portrayed. I personally am amazed that Malaysia and Indonesia haven't already taken them in. Unfortunately I am back in Sweden for a few months, I have access to all the main Scandinavian and European media outlets and can let you all know after 6 days back I have not seen one report about what's happening in Burma/Thailand. I think the Rohingya are the Asian Roma (gypsies), nobody wants them, what's the reason, your guess is as good as mine.

Posted by Simon on April 28, 2013 16:11

Editor Comment:

The reasons are obvious to those who research the issue and discover they're sitting in a state that's endowed with natural resources - and in the way of those who want to claim the wealth.


Seriously though... What responsibility of Thailand's is it to take these people in? Bangladesh is there, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, ... this is not a Thai problem.

Posted by Anonymous on April 28, 2013 16:40

Editor Comment:

Quite right. It's a Burma problem. This is an involuntary movement of people. They don't want to leave. They are being forced out. Why do people assume otherwise?


So it is OK to settle in a country with a different religion, oppose it and then try and push your host out is it? Look up and study 'Rohingya conflict in Western Burma' and study it. I will hope you sincerely start to study this problem, as you are the one who is clearly 'ill-informed/misguided' or you just like to argue the toss? All 3 is my opinion.

Posted by Alan on April 28, 2013 17:53

Editor Comment:

Burma appears to have evolved a policy of exclusion during its decades under the military junta, demonising people not considered to be of the right race or religion. That's why a Burmese diplomat called Rohingya ''ugly as ogres'' and advised people to strike comparisons with his handsome face. We've talked to many Rohingya and exposed their mistreatment. One of us is continuing a PhD on the issue. So thanks, our research is first-hand, and academic, and balanced.


Ed, I do respect your view that you want human rights for these people. Perhaps it is time that Asean stood proud and looked up to the rules of Europe in regards to freedom of movement of European people within the whole European zone without Visas and sorted this issue out together and each country took a quota equal to that country's size. Is this not want happened in a similar way after the Vietnam war, Australia took some Vietnamese even though they are not in Asia. Sadly as we know in this part of the world if you don't have money you have very limited rights. A model example of taking their own people is Israel who accept Jews from any where in the world. They even flew the Ethopian Jews by plane to Israel who clearly although Jewish (proven extensively for many hundreds of years) were very different being black and culturally. shame on Indonesia and Malaysia who don't seem to care about their fellow Muslims.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on April 28, 2013 19:51

Editor Comment:

No interest in further comments from you on this or any other issue, FF. You overlook central points, vacillate, and rant like a ratbag. . . when it suits you. Troll somewhere else, please. You won't be published here again.


@ Jon

With that mindset all Muslim Thais in the far south should then be expelled too, right ?

You seem to be promoting religiously homogenous nations and I'm sure you have many other criteria on your list that need to be satisfied to qualify as a worthy citizen.

I'm going out on a limb here but I'm betting you are not a Buddhist and don't speak Thai so according to you, you have no right to be here either.

You would have felt right at home in Nazi Germany.

Posted by Stephen on April 28, 2013 19:57



Posted by Fiesty Farang on April 28, 2013 20:49

Editor Comment:

You're a mischief-maker, FF, a mindless time-waster. None of your views are consistent or sincerely held. As I said, you won't find an audience here. Goodbye.


The editor is misinformed, sadly. The PHD his friends getting would be worthless if they research only on muslim written make up histoy. I suspect the editor must be a muslim and he is doing his religious duty to defend his brothers.

Posted by Rakhine on April 29, 2013 21:09

Editor Comment:

No problems here, Rakhine. Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and people with no religion at all live and work together. The sadness all of us share is that Rakhines and many Burmese can't do that.


I fully agreed Editor's comments. I also condemned some un acceptable racist comments.This's not the war between Muslim and Buddhist. This is a creation of 50 years of Army rule who use Religion as a tool through their divide and rule policy to lasting their dictatorial army rule to dominate the people.They produced some fake Buddhist Monks and hard line supporters by extending various kinds of facilities during 50 years. They army rulers are also not real Buddhist. This fake racist group not only slaughtered Rohingyas and Muslims but did the same to respectable Buddhist Monks in 2007 Monks demonstration led by Ashin Gambira.In Burma,we had very remarkable peaceful coexistence and Religious harmony before.You could not find any communal violence started by Musl;im or Christian in Burma History . Only the said fake racist group by the help of Army time to times start unstable among the Religious minorities and ethnic Rohingyas.
The Rohingyas have thousands years glorious History in Arakan.The kingdom's former name was Rohang.

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,President,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand ,BRAT on April 30, 2013 23:01


Thanks for this article. I have visited this camp three times now, with the last trip being a week long stay. When are they going to notify the Rohingya of their plight? At the end of June i presume?

Posted by Canadian on May 20, 2013 21:27

Editor Comment:

A release on the due date is no certainty. The last group of Rohingya to be held in detention in Thailand in 2009 was kept for more than two years, with at least two needless deaths of teenagers because of the cramped nature of their incarceration. This time, conditions for the women and children are better than for their menfolk. Are there still people arguing that it's better to keep the Rohingya longer as a deterrent to others? We will only know if the June deadline ticks by without a decision.

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