Burmese refugees left stranded on desert island in Thailand for 3 days

Today, the Thai army picked up 16 Burmese refugees who were left stranded on a desert island off the coast of Ranong province, southern Thailand, for 3 days and 2 nights. The group came to the island from Myanmar by boat and were told to wait for another boat to take them across to the mainland. However, the boat they were promised never came.

Laem Som National Park officials this morning discovered 16 Burmese refugees stranded on Koh Kam Nui, an uninhabited island in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Ranong province. The Thai army was called in to provide assistance.

The refugees, 9 men and 7 women, said they had travelled 60 – 70 kilometres across the sea from Kawthoung town at the southernmost point in Myanmar and crossed into Thailand’s territorial waters. The crossing from Ranong to Kawthoung is a popular visa-run for people living in the provinces of Phang Nga, Phuket and Krabi.

The boat which picked up the group from Myanmar dropped them off on the desert island and told them to wait for a long-tail boat with a Thai driver to take them across to the mainland. However, the boat did not arrive and the group were left with no food or water for 3 days and 2 nights.

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The group said they planned to cross over to the mainland, travel through Thailand’s southern provinces and enter Malaysia where they hoped to find work. The refugees had agreed to pay the equivalent of 30,000 baht each when they reached Malaysia.

Officials suspect no one dared pick up the refugees since 3 Thai men were arrested for transporting 30 Burmese refugees by long-tail boat in the same area last week. The men were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking. However, they were found not guilty of the charges.

The army provided food and water for the 16 Burmese men and women and took them across to the mainland. The army didn’t say what would happen to the refugees now.

Despite ongoing violence in Myanmar, Burmese refugees who risk their lives to travel into Thailand or neighbouring countries are usually considered by Thai authorities as illegal immigrants. Usually, Thai authorities send Burmese people who illegally crossed into Thailand back to Myanmar.


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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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