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Human Rights Watch calls for probe into alleged Rohingya shootings

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Human Rights Watch calls for probe into alleged Rohingya shootings | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) today issued a statement calling for the Thai authorities to investigate reports of Royal Thai Navy sailors opening fire on a boatload of Rohingya off the Phang Nga coast, north of Phuket, allegedly killing at least two of the refugees.

“Rohingya fleeing Burma should be given protection, not shot at,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“The Thai government should urgently investigate why sailors opened fire on boat people helpless in the sea and prosecute all those found responsible.”

According to the press release, survivors of the incident told HRW that on the morning of February 20, Thai fishermen helped their drifting boat ashore on Surin Island off the coast of Phang Nga province.

On that same day, at about 6:30pm, Thai navy patrol boat TOR214 arrived at the island and towed their boat back to sea. The patrol boat and the Rohingya boat arrived near a pier in Kuraburi district, Phang Nga, at around 5am the next day.

According to the survivors and Thai villagers on the shore, navy personnel from the patrol boat began to divide the Rohingya into small groups in the boat and ordered them to get ready to board smaller boats.

At that point, the Rohingya became uncertain whether they would be taken to immigration detention on the mainland or be pushed back to sea. When the first group of 20 Rohingya was put on a smaller boat by the Thai navy, some panicked and jumped overboard, said the report.

“Navy personnel fired into the air three times and told us not to move,” one survivor told Human Rights Watch. “But we were panicking and jumped off the boat, and then they opened fire on us in the water.”

Four Rohingya who swam to shore were rescued by local Thai villagers. Thai security forces searched the area for two days after the incident, but the villagers kept the survivors hidden.

The bodies of two Rohingya reportedly showing bullet wounds were later pulled from the sea and buried in a Muslim cemetery in Kuraburi district, said HRW.

Thai fishermen told Human Rights Watch they saw more dead bodies in the water but had no more information. The fate of the remaining passengers on the boat remains unknown after it was towed away by the Thai navy.

Human Rights Watch called on the Thai government and the National Human Rights Commission to conduct thorough and transparent investigations into the shooting. If unnecessary or excessive force is found to have been used, all those responsible, including officers who gave orders to fire, should be prosecuted, Human Rights Watch said.

“Whenever the use of force is unavoidable, they must use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. The intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life,” said the press release

DENIAL

Vice Admiral Taratorn Kajitsuwan, Commander of the Third Naval Area, who is responsible for all naval operations along the Andaman coast declined to comment on the story to the Phuket Gazette.

One media report quoted him as saying that he refused to comment because the story only served to “tarnish the reputation of the Royal Thai Navy”.

ABC News in Australia reported receiving a statement from Vice Admiral Taratorn denying that navy sailors opened fire on the refugees.

Likewise, one of the top-ranking officers at the Kuraburi District Police declined to comment in detail about the incident, saying, “I am aware of this story. It is only a rumor to discredit Thai officers. There was no such shooting.”

The officer, who asked not to be identified, did not disclose how he became aware of the story. He also offered no explanation as to what investigation – if any – had proved the rumors to be untrue.

Surin National Park Chief Rattanachart Noikondee told the Gazette he received no reports from park rangers or from villagers living within the park of any shootings.

Phang Nga MP Kantawan Tanthien, quoted by one news report as recently as Monday confirming that the shooting took place, today was unavailable to confirm the report to the Gazette.

MP Kantawan would be “unavailable for days to come”, the Gazette was told.

BODIES

However, the senior Kuraburi District Police officer the Gazette spoke to did confirm that two bodies were pulled from the water in the same area at about the same time as the alleged naval shootings.

The condition of the bodies made it impossible for police to determine whether or not the men were shot, said the officer.

“In fact, we are not sure if the bodies were Rohingya or Burmese fishing boat crew,” he said.

The bodies were sent to Kuraburi Chaipat Hospital for further examination. Hospital staff there told the Gazette that post-mortem examinations, including x-rays, failed to produce any evidence of bullet wounds.

“The bodies were then handed back to the authorities,” one staffer who declined to identified, said.

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

Tourism

The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint

The Thaiger

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The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | The Thaiger

There are two well known ways to get from Kathu to Kalim or Kamala – one is across the Patong Hill, and the other is much longer, through Srisoonthorn and along the coastal road from Surin the Kamala (very scenic too).

But there’s also another way. Also very scenic but will take you about 2 hours through dense forest although there is a well-worn walking track. The track will take you from Kathu up to the Kalim Viewpoint. From here you can head back to Kathu along a different path, or down into Kalim, near Patong.

Starting about halfway down Soi Namtok in Kathu, you head up a nondescript road past the Flying Hanuman zipline attraction, although there’s no sign at the entrance to the soi (below). About the first kilometre is paved but then becomes increasingly ‘agricultural’ as you get higher into the hills, heading towards the Kalim Viewpoint. There’s also a small temple on the way up.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: The start of the trek, a small soi off Soi Namtok – Google Maps

It will take around 2 hours to trek up to the Kalim Viewpoint. The walking is quite strenuous and you’ll need to be wearing the right shoes and take plenty of water – there’s no 7/11s on the way! As you get nearer the top, to the viewpoint, the track becomes less drivable although the track is still quite open and easy to follow. If you’re feeling a bit lazy you can take a motorbike about halfway up the road until you’ll need to proceed on foot from there.

From the Kalim Viewpoint you can see across Kalim to Patong Bay and the land that stretches along the bay south of Patong Beach. From the top you can either make your way down to Kalim or another exit along the Kalim-Kamala Road, just near the Iguana Beach Club.

You can also head back another way to Kathu, a longer return track that skirts around the top of the Kathu Waterfall. A lot of that track gets very narrow and parts of it are up and down the hills, some of it very steep.

The views are amazing and you get to see a vast swathe of Phuket, still very close to popular locations like Patong, Kamala and Kathu, but untouched by any civilisation.

You’ll need to be in reasonable health to take on the trip but, just to go up to the Kalim Viewpoint and back, or down into Kalim, should take around 5 hours in total. On a scale of 1 – 5 for difficulty, we’d rate it a 3. An easy trek for experienced people but will need a bit of planning if you’re not an experienced trekker.

Even on a hazy day, as it was today, the views were amazing. But best to start off early morning when the weather is cooler. Well worth the time for the views and the opportunity to see more of Phuket, away from the bars and beaches.

Thanks to BT for the pics and information.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The ThaigerThe road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

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Phuket

Police say Phuket school won’t be charged for employing foreign teachers without a work permit

Caitlin Ashworth

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Police say Phuket school won’t be charged for employing foreign teachers without a work permit | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

An international school in Phuket is not facing charges for employing foreign teachers without a work permit, police told the Phuket News. Back in November, 2 British nationals were arrested at the Palm House International School in Rawai in a raid by Phuket Immigration officers, acting on a tip that teachers were working at the school without a work permit.

The case was handed over to the Chalong Police. The department was also requested to investigate the school for suspected illegal hiring practices. When pressed by Phuket News reporters, the Chalong Police Chief Sarawut Chuprasit said the school officials are not facing any charges for employing the teachers illegally, without a work permit, and referred reporters to the provincial prosecutor.

“I have no reason to press any charge against the school at all. It is not right to accuse the school.”

Many schools in Thailand, especially international schools, obtain work permits for foreign teachers and even pay the fees. It’s also fairly common for foreign teachers to work without the proper documents, especially during the pandemic where travel restrictions make border runs nearly impossible.

Phuket News say police will not release the names of the 2 British teachers and will not give any additional information. They add that the provincial prosecutor’s office will also not release information without a police case number or suspects’ names. In a previous report, Phuket Immigration Deputy Chief also declined to identify the British nationals by name or age.

“Their visa status does not allow them to work or perform any form of business. They were arrested as they are suspected of working without a work permit.”

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket health chief urges “red zone” travellers to abide by quarantine measures

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket health chief urges “red zone” travellers to abide by quarantine measures | The Thaiger
PHOTO: National News Bureau of Thailand

With Phuket’s new disease control measures requiring those travelling from high risk areas to quarantine, the province’s public health chief is now saying those at alternative state quarantine hotels won’t be locked up in their rooms throughout their 14 day stay in isolation. He says guests can wander through certain areas of the hotel to have meals and do other activities.

Those travelling from “red zone” provinces are required to self-quarantine at a hotel or at their home for 14 days. People from areas classified as the “highest risk,” including Samut Sakhon, Chonburi, Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat, must quarantine and undergo a Covid-19 swab test.

The public health chief Thanit Sermkaew says there will be harsh penalties for anyone who violates the new measures and urges travellers to stay at their quarantine location, home or hotel, for 14 days. People who violate the order can be punished under the Disease Control Act, either under Section 51, which carries a fine up to 20,000 baht, or under Section 52, which carries up to a year in jail and a fine up to 100,000 baht.

“It would be great if visitors from the ‘red zone’ areas stay in their hotels, so we are asking for their cooperation. They do not need to stay only in their room. They are able to do activities within the hotel, such as having meals, swimming, yoga and other activities… Please do not go outside the hotel. That would be a good preventative measure in Phuket province.”

Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panaphong says hotels should “request” that their guests stay inside the hotel.

“Phuket officials have asked for the cooperation from operators to record the travel moments of guests before they arrived at the hotel and to request that their guests stay within the hotel area only, not to go outside of the hotel area.”

People who completed quarantine in Bangkok and tested negative for Covid-19 do not need to quarantine in Phuket as long as they travel directly to the island immediately after being released.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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