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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Police rescue hundreds of Rohingya in raid on suspected traffickers’ camp

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Police rescue hundreds of Rohingya in raid on suspected traffickers’ camp | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Thai police rescue hundreds of Rohingya in raid on suspected traffickers’ camp
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Thai police have rescued hundreds of Rohingya Muslims from a remote camp in a raid prompted by a Reuters investigation into human trafficking, police officials said on Monday.

Police detained 531 men, women and children in Sunday’s raid at a camp near the town of Sadao in the southern province of Songkhla, on a well-established route for human smugglers near Thailand’s border with Malaysia. It was the first raid on illegal Rohingya smuggling camps since January 9, 2013.

The police said they were following up on a December 5 Reuters report that Rohingya were held hostage in camps hidden near the border with Malaysia until relatives pay ransoms to release them. Some were beaten and killed.

The Rohingya are mostly stateless Muslims from Myanmar, also known as Burma. Deadly clashes between Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists erupted in Buddhist-majority Myanmar last year, making 140,000 people homeless, most of them Rohingya.

Since then, tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled from Myanmar by boat and many arrive off southwest Thailand.

The United Nations and the United States called for an investigation into the Reuters report, based on a two months of research in three countries, that revealed a clandestine policy to remove Rohingya refugees from Thai immigration detention centres and deliver them to human traffickers waiting at sea.

“After Reuters gave us information, we ordered an investigation into the camps,” said Chatchawan Suksomjit, deputy national police chief. He said they captured three suspected ringleaders at the camp, all of them Thai males.

Reuters gave the Thai authorities coordinates to one camp near Sadao which was empty by the time they arrived, but police found another camp nearby.

“From the Reuters report, we received a clue that it was in Kao Roop Chang (village). But the camp was already moved from there when we found it. We found only an empty camp there. So we investigated more until we found the new camp,” said Colonel Kan Tammakasem, superintendent of immigration in Songkhla.

The plight of the Rohingya illustrates the limits to Myanmar’s wave of democratic reforms since military rule ended in March 2011. Inside Myanmar, they face apartheid-like conditions and, according to the United Nations, many forms of “persecution, discrimination and exploitation”.

U.S. scrutiny

Police are trying to identify the origins of those detained after the raid, not all of whom were Rohingya, said Chatchawan. “We are interviewing all of them to see if they are victims of human trafficking,” he said.

They are being kept at an immigration detention centre in Songkhla.

“We have to interview them and proceed according to Thai immigration laws,” he said. “It will depend on whether they want to go back. If they are willing we will send them back as we have done before.”

Last year, Thailand implemented a secretive policy to deport the Rohingya.

These deportations delivered many Rohingya back into the hands of smuggling networks and human traffickers, who in some cases ferried them back to Thailand’s secret border camps, reported Reuters.

The raid comes as the U.S. State Department is finalising its research for its next Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report, due in June, which ranks countries on their counter-trafficking performance.

Thailand is Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy and a close U.S. ally, but has a poor record in fighting trafficking and faces a possible downgrade to the report’s lowest rank, putting it at risk of U.S. sanctions and potentially placing it on a par with North Korea and Iran.

Nine people were arrested in Thailand in relation to Rohingya smuggling in 2013, including two government officials, according to police data, but none of the arrests has led to convictions.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Road deaths

1st day of Songkran road safety campaign – 356 injuries, 25 deaths

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1st day of Songkran road safety campaign – 356 injuries, 25 deaths | Thaiger
PHOTO: Thailand's notorious traffic and hazardous road conditions

The Songkran road safety campaign is off to a moderate start with a reported 25 deaths and 356 injuries across Thailand on Saturday. The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department director-general reports that there were 348 road accidents in the country on the first day of the campaign.

Though the figures don’t sound like an achievement, they are actually a fair bit lower than the average road death toll each day in Thailand throughout the year. Officials say that the real rush back home for the annual holiday will probably be tomorrow.

About 83% of the accidents involved motorbikes, 7.5% involved pick-up trucks and 4% were with cars. The biggest percentage of incidents happened between 4 and 8 pm, with 28% of accidents occurring in the late afternoon and early evening. Around 20% of crashes were between 8 am and noon, and 17% between noon and 4 pm.

Speeding is the number one cause of traffic accidents, with 32% of incidents a result of people driving too fast. Sudden lane switches, regardless of speed, contributed to about 20% of crashes. Alcohol was another major contributing factor, with intoxicated drivers involved in 23% of accidents that were attributed to drink-driving.

Bangkok, Chon Buri and Chiang Mai saw 2 fatalities on the roads of each province, while Phatthalung province in Southern Thailand had 22 injuries from 20 traffic accidents, the most in any province in Thailand.

As part of the Songkran road safety campaign, 342,000 cars, trucks and motorbikes were stopped and inspected by over 60,000 officials across Thailand yesterday. There are 1.913 main road checkpoints set up throughout the entire country. More than 58,000 citations were handed out to drivers for many different infractions, notably over 16,000 drivers were caught without a license and nearly 15,000 people were violating Thailand’s helmet laws by riding without one.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Road deaths

Thailand road accidents cost 500 billion baht per year

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Thailand road accidents cost 500 billion baht per year | Thaiger
PHOTO: Thailand - the most dangerous roads in Asia?

Thailand is notorious for its road and driving conditions, and a disproportionate number of driving accidents. The World Health Organisation now reports that road accidents cost an estimated 500 billion baht in 2019 alone. The WHO report placed Thailand as the number one country in ASEAN with a 32.7 per cent death rate, the highest in Southeast Asia. The Road Accident Victims Protection Co explains that the WHO calculates the financial damages of driving deaths in different countries around the world. Thailand’s 500 billion baht loss amounts to about 3 per cent of the country’s entire 2019 gross domestic product of 16.87 trillion baht.

By analyzing statistics and making projections about road deaths from 2021 to 2027, the estimates during the next 6 years that Thailand is facing an average of about 15,400 deaths per year in the best case, and looking a worst case scenario of over 18,600 deaths per year in traffic accidents. Adding an extra depressing edge to this gruesome statistic, the report shows that nearly 40% of those killed in traffic accidents are the heads of households. With the loss of the family head, an average of 2.43 people per death lose the support of their primary family earner, putting them in peril. The death of younger household leaders, and other untimely and unnatural deaths also may contribute in the longterm to a disparity in an aging population.

2020 saw a strong drop in road accidents and deaths, from 22,000 in 2019 to just under 18,000 fatalities, though this drop is mainly due to the national lockdown in April and general decrease in travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If Covid-19 improves in the coming month and the country springs back to life, the number of deaths are likely to spring back as well. Estimates show that road fatalities could return to 19,000-20,000 in all of 2021, which is about 1 death every 26 minutes. Worldwide about 317,000 people die in driving accidents every year, or about 1 every 23 seconds.

SOURCE: The Nation Thailand

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Songkran

Songkran activities cancelled in Ayutthaya due to Covid-19

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Songkran activities cancelled in Ayutthaya due to Covid-19 | Thaiger
PHOTO: Ayutthaya traditionally has elaborate Songkran celebrations

After the recent outbreak of Covid-19 across Thailand, in a large part due to entertainment activities, Thailand’s former capital city of Ayutthaya has now officially cancelled all Songkran festival activities for the upcoming holiday. All events previously planned to mark the Thai New Year’s holiday between April 13 and 15 have now been called off. An urgent declaration by the provincial governor today informed the public of the decision. Many people across the country are cancelling Songkran events or any observance of the holiday at all.

The decision by the province’s Songkran committee and the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Ayutthaya office was directed especially at tourists who may be planning to travel to the area for traditional festivities. Complex and ornate events had been planned, scheduled to be held on Si Sanphet road, with the sudden cancellation announcement abruptly ending the preparations for holiday merriment.

TAT and the local government agreed that the cancellation was necessary to prevent the possible spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in light of the current outbreak across Thailand. In Ayutthaya, 86 people have been infected with 21 new cases diagnosed yesterday. In an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19, the Ayutthaya Hospital issued a statement limiting visits for hospital patients. The hospital encourages people to do video calls with their relatives as the hospital will only allow one relative to spend time with each patient. This overall situation led to the official decision to call off all Songkran festivities.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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