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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Rohingya plight in focus

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Rohingya in peril as Thailand struggles to pay for shelter
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: On the night Muhammad Sultan was born, he was on a perilous journey at sea. Days after, the boat that carried him and his family would be found, nearly sunk, on the shore of an island off the coast of the southwest province of Phang Nga in Thailand.

Upon arrival, he and over 100 more Rohingya from Myanmar’s western Rakhine State were carted off and segregated – the men detained and the women and children placed in shelters.

“But we’d rather be here than in Myanmar, where we will surely die,” his mother, Nguru, told Asia News, as she adjusted the thin fabric wrapped around Muhammad’s frail body, shielding his blistering skin from the heat.

The 24-year-old mother, along with the women at the shelter in Phang Nga, said they would risk all, resort to anything, except going back to Sittwe, where they had been deprived of their homes, burned to the ground by Rakhine people. The savage persecution of the Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar has led to the displacement of over 100,000 people, and the deaths of many since riots broke out in June 2012.

In Thailand, fleeing from ghettos, from a country where they are branded “stateless”, the Rohingya seek a better life, free of bloodshed.

Over 1,500 Rohingya have arrived in Thailand since January, and authorities predict more boats will arrive in the coming months. The recent, unprecedented arrival of the Rohingya has put pressure on the Thai government, and the absence of a policy to dealing with the crisis has exacerbated the problem.

For now, the government has decided to provide humanitarian assistance to them in detention centres and shelters across the country, for six months. After that, it is unclear whether they will be sent back to Myanmar or be resettled in another country.

“It’s a very complex issue, and finding a solution is not easy,” said Chis Lewa of the the Arakan Project, a group that does research-based advocacy on the situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

“The whole region, not just Thailand, must recognise that this is a mass exodus. Everyone is aware of the situation in Rakhine State but most countries are not open to providing protection,” she said. In the meantime, she added, they must be treated more humanely.

“Thailand has no domestic [refugee[ laws and we are not party to the UN Convention on Refugees. Therefore, we cannot properly handle the issue,” Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation executive director Veeravit Tianchainan said during a recent meeting on the Rohingya at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Bangkok.

Experts are saying that had there been laws in place to deal with refugees like the Rohingya, Thailand would not be facing this magnitude of a problem today. The arrival of the refugees in Thailand is proving to be too costly: an estimated Bt3.37 million for food for a month, at Bt75 per person a day for 1,500 refugees. That’s over Bt20 million, minimum, for six months, assuming there will be no more arrivals.

A law on refugees would allow for a systematic screening, registration, and status determination of refugees entering Thailand. With a law, there would be no arbitrary arrests and detention; illegal migrants would be dealt with accordingly, and asylum-seekers treated more humanely. Veeravit said a refugee law has to be finalised before it can be submitted to Parliament.

For now, Thailand considers a non-Thai who illegally enters the country as an illegal migrant, to be charged under the law. Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said the Rohingya should be prosecuted for illegal entry, along with those who smuggle them into the country.

“Arresting and detaining them is a violation of human rights,” Veeravit said.

As a signatory to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), Thailand cannot subject refugees to arbitrary arrest and detention. But since the Rohingya in Thailand do not fall under that category, at least not yet, they continue to be treated as illegals.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during a recent meeting on the Rohingya, said the government needs more information on the refugees’ identity, place of origin and reason for coming to Thailand before it could determine the status of the Rohingya and the proper way to deal with them.

In Thailand, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) would be in the best position to properly screen the Rohingya. But the agency is barred from conducting full refugee status determination for asylum-seekers in Thailand, although the government has granted the UNHCR access to the Rovings recently detained in the southern provinces.

Under CAT, the principle of non-refoulement also prohibits Thailand from returning refugees to a country where their “life or freedom would be threatened”.

Thai officials are still attempting to determine if the Rohingya who have recently arrived can be classified as “refugees” or merely migrants seeking jobs here. A refugee screening process would be crucial to protecting the Rohingya.

Sources said that most of the Rohingya coming to Thailand are en route to Malaysia. The Thai government in 2008 in fact came under fire for its policy of pushing Rohingya boat people back out to sea, so they can move on to Malaysia, where nearly 60,000 Rohingya are. Others proceed to Indonesia, their next choice of destination.

A source told Asia News that that those coming from Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State pay brokers Bt60,000 to go to Malaysia. The money covers the boat fee and payoffs to border guards, defence authorities, immigration officers and the police. According to the source, if the refugees cannot pay in full, they are hauled off to so-called “smugglers’ camps”, tortured and sold to “labour brokers”.

The men, for instance, are forced to work on fishing trawlers for months to cover their debt. Once fully paid, they are brought back to the Thai mainland, where they can get a boat and proceed to Malaysia.

“The women [referring to the recent arrivals] want to follow their husbands to Malaysia, since the men can never go back to Myanmar,” Lewa said.

But women like Nguru will find it difficult to reunite her family. At the immigration detention centre in Phang Nga where her husband is detained, authorities are planning to transfer them to several jails in the South, and even to the northeast of Thailand. NHRC investigating officer Kessarin Tiawsakul said the centres can no longer hold the swelling number of detainees. Phang Nga, for example, has over 300 Rohingya cramped in a centre suitable for only 100 people.

The detainees’ phones were also confiscated, leaving them with no means of communicating with their wives and children.

But for Nguru, it is enough for now that her newborn son and three other children are safe. “We leave it all to Allah,” she said, fervent in her prayers that there will be a future for her and her family. She remembers, too, that just as Muhammad was born, it started to rain, as if it was a blessing from the heavens.

Officials urge talks with Myanmar, UN on Rohingya
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: House Standing Committee on State Security chairman Weng Tojirakan on Wednesday discussed the Rohingya migrant issue and recommended talks with Myanmar to repatriate the

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand

Thailand News Today | German Embassy, More STV tourists, Thanathorn in trouble | October 27

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | German Embassy, More STV tourists, Thanathorn in trouble | October 27 | The Thaiger

Today’s latest Thai news from The Thaiger, hosted by Tim Newton with full, echoey sound! Sorry about the minor audio issues!

From Bangkok to Berlin – protesters deliver letter to German Embassy

Protesting students last night submitted a letter to the German Embassy, to be passed on to the German Government. The protest started around 4pm when the rally gathered at the Sam Yan intersection, near the Chulalongkorn University, and made its way along Rama IV Road to the German Embassy in Sathorn Road, some 1.5 kilometres.

After some 10,000+ students descended on the Embassy compound in Sathorn Road, the German embassy said it would be “ready to receive the petition and convey it to Berlin on condition it was conveyed in a peaceful manner”.

The rally disbanded peacefully at around 9pm. Here are a few lines from the letter… the full contents are published on thethaiger.com

Addressed to His Excellency German Ambassador to Thailand.

During the last few days, we believe that Your Excellency have had the occasion to observe numerous alarming human rights violations in The Kingdom, including the excessive use of force against peaceful protestors and the suppression of free speech.

The protestors. at the receiving end of these egregious violations, were advocating for nothing more than democracy and accountability from the Government.

One of the most significant and courageous demands from the protestors is the accountability of the monarchy as an institution under the constitution.

In this regard, we are certain that Your Excellency is well aware of the open secret that H.M. does not habitually reside in Thailand, but rather in Bavaria, Germany. Khana Ratsadon International profoundly believes that this violates International custom, law, as well as Article I of the German Constitution.

We sincerely hope that Your Excellency would convey our grievances to the German Government.

Yesterday’s Germany’s Foreign Minister responded directly to the situation out side the German Embassy in the German parliament….

“Of course we are following developments taking place in Thailand, and know there are demonstrations and people taking to the streets for their rights. And, of course, I am also watching what the Thai King gets up to in Germany.”

Earlier yesterday a group of some 500 supporters of the government and royalists dressed in yellow shirts also demonstrated outside the gates of the German Embassy voicing their support for His Majesty and a continuation of the current system.

Both rallies outside German Embassy broke the law – deputy police chief

Meanwhile both of the rallies outside the German Embassy in Bangkok – the royalists and government supporters earlier yesterday afternoon and the pro-democracy protesters in the evening – have been deemed illegal by Thai police.

Deputy Metropolitan Police Chief says both rallies held outside the embassy on Sathorn Road did not have the permit required to hold a gathering and demonstrators violated Covid-19 prevention measures under the emergency order (presumably the Covid 19 emergency decree as the State of Emergency was rescinded last Thursday by the Thai PM).

Around 500 royalists got to the embassy first in the afternoon to show support for the Thai Monarch. Most were dressed in yellow, the colour representing the Thai Monarchy, and many waved the Thai flag and held up photos of the Royal family.

6 face extortion charges after allegedly posing Thai immigration police officers

Police have arrested 3 people and issued arrest warrants for 3 others on extortion charges after they allegedly posed immigration police officers in Rayong and visited business owners with migrant staff, asking them for money.

Police say 6 men wearing immigration police uniforms visited business owners in Rayong on September 15. They allegedly asked for money from the businesses with migrant labourers.

Investigators where able to track down 3 of the suspects and found the immigration police uniforms they allegedly used.

145 more on Special Tourist Visa arrive in Bangkok

145 people on the new Special Tourist Visa arrived in Bangkok yesterday from Guangzhou, China, the second group after Thailand’s 7 month ban on international tourists.

39 people on the new long stay visa arrived last week, a small, yet significant step forward for Thailand as it pries open the borders for tourists, albeit with a lot of paperwork, restrictions AND the 14 day quarantine.

In 2019, nearly 40 million tourists visited Thailand.

3 Chinese casino workers arrested with 8 million baht after illegal crossing from Myanmar

Officers from the Thai police and military have arrested 3 Chinese nationals after they crossed illegally into Thailand from the Burmese town of Myawaddy.

The 2 women and 1 man were workers at a casino in Myanmar and were arrested in possession of 8 million baht in Mae Sot, Northern Thailand. Officers detained them as they were getting into 2 cars allegedly arranged for them by 2 Thai men .

Thanathorn, other former Future Forward Party officials, are facing criminal charges

16 people from the dissolved Future Forward Party, including the former leader Thanathorn , could face criminal charges pressed by the Election Commission.

The charges are over a large donation that allegedly exceeds the maximum allowed under the Political Parties Act. The timing of the politically-charged legal action coincides with a peak of anti-government protest activity.

The 191 million baht loan, which exceeds the limit of 10 million baht per donor per year, led the Constitutional Court to dissolve the Future Forward Party back in February. The Court also ordered the party’s executive MPs be stripped of their parliamentary status and banned from politics for 10 years.

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Don’t forget to extend your visa! Thai Immigration warns about fines for late applicants

Caitlin Ashworth

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Don’t forget to extend your visa! Thai Immigration warns about fines for late applicants | The Thaiger

Still need to extend your visa? You have until Halloween, October 31. With the visa amnesty deadline approaching, Thai Immigration Bureau is reminding foreigners to get their visa in order by the end of this month. Late applicants will be fined, they say.

No matter when the visa is extended, as long as it’s before the deadline, it will go into effect on November 1 and allow a 60 day stay. The immigration bureau says foreigners should file an application with their local immigration office.

Since the recent amnesty period was put in place a few days after the initial September 26 deadline, those who paid 1,900 baht for 30 day visa extensions last month are now allowed to stay until November 30, but they need to go to immigration to get a stamp with the new expiration date.

The amnesty was first put in place in April due to travel restrictions and the global spread of the coronavirus. The grace period was set to end in July, then extended to late-September, and then extended again after many were unable to leave the country or get their visa in order before the deadline.

SOURCE: Thai Immigration

Don't forget to extend your visa! Thai Immigration warns about fines for late applicants | News by The Thaiger

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145 more on Special Tourist Visa arrive in Bangkok

Caitlin Ashworth

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145 more on Special Tourist Visa arrive in Bangkok | The Thaiger
PHOTO: 77 kaoded

145 people on the new Special Tourist Visa arrived in Bangkok yesterday from Guangzhou, China, the second group after Thailand’s 7 month ban on international tourists. 39 people on the new long stay visa arrived last week, a small, yet significant step forward for Thailand as it pries open the borders for tourists, albeit with a lot of paperwork, restrictions AND the 14 day quarantine.

The country went from welcoming millions of tourists each month before the pandemic to zero from late-March until a few weeks ago. In 2019, nearly 40 million tourists visited Thailand.

All the tourists passed the Covid-19 screening upon arrival at the Suvarnabhumi Airport. They are now required to go through a 14 day quarantine at an approved hotel or facility before travelling the country.

The tourists were on the same China Southern Airlines flight as 118 foreigners with Thai work permits who were entering Thailand for business purposes, according to the airport’s deputy director Kittipong Kittikachon. 16 Thais were also on the flight, travelling back home from China.

While some have been concerned that opening the borders to foreign tourists could cause another outbreak (even though the tourists are also required to quarantine), Kittipong says there is “no chance” that the coronavirus will spread from the tourists. He says strict health measures are in place and the tourists are coming from areas that are considered a “very low risk” with no recent local transmissions of the virus.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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