Another boatload of Rohingyas arrives in Thailand

BANGKOK / PHUKET : A boat with 78 Rohingyas arrived in Ranong on the southern Andaman coast yesterday amid mounting pressure on the government over ill-treatment of the ethnic minority from Burma.

The latest boat people are aged 14 to 55. Some of those found in a rickety boat with a broken engine off the coast of Ranong near the Surin Islands, about 120 kilometers north of Phuket, were injured, navy commander Lieutenant Kwanchai Ketphan said.

They were later handed to police after being given food and water, he said.

Marud Hussen, 50, spoke to reporters in broken Thai. He said he and his colleagues collected 10 million Kyat (about 350,000 baht) to hire the boat to leave Arakan state in Burma on December 30.

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The group wanted to obtain work in Ranong before extending their journey to Malaysia, he said.

The stateless Rohingyas are mostly Muslims who have fled Burma or Bangladesh to seek a better life in Southeast Asia. Thailand has about 20,000 of them in port cities working in the fishing industry.

The Rohingyas have been in the spotlight since Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post broke the story of their plight several weeks ago, saying the Thai military had allegedly towed about 1,000 of them back out to sea. Hundreds are said to have died.

Survivors rescued by India’s Coast Guard said they were abandoned at sea with little food and water in December.

The military has denied acting in an inhumane way but pictures have emerged recently of a boat full of Rohingyas being towed out to sea.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is still waiting for an official response from the Foreign Ministry to a request last week to see some 126 Rohingya believed to have arrived in Thailand nearly two weeks ago.

The Foreign Ministry has said it was unable to verify their whereabouts. One report indicated they were “escorted” back to sea by the Navy days ago.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the government had agreed to meet the UN refugee agency and had also offered to host a regional meeting with all concerned countries to try to tackle the root cause of the problem.

The Foreign Ministry came up with the idea last week for a regional conference with ambassador from Bangladesh, Burma, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Despite some rather dramatic “reports” and opinions offered in local blogs and chat rooms, most resort managers and tourism officials contacted by the Phuket Gazette say they are not expecting the arrival of the Rohingyas on Phuket’s beaches any time soon.

— Nation & Gazette Reporters

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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