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Thai Navy Accused Of Letting Migrants Drown


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Tried to Post in 'News Clippings' but got an 'error' message.

+Please, no jokes about visa restrictions; hundreds have perished.+

The 'allegations' all over the World in newscasts


<H1 id=story_headline>Thai PM pledges to work with UN refugee agency</H1><H2 id=story_subheadline></H2>The Associated Press BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thailand's prime minister said international agencies looking into alleged abuse of illegal migrants by Thai authorities can speak with officials, but he stopped short of saying the groups could meet with the migrants themselves.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's announcement Wednesday came a day after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees asked for access to the illegal migrants, several of whom the organization says are in Thai custody.

A Bangkok-based advocacy group last week alleged that Thai security officials forced as many as 1,000 migrants - mostly stateless Rohingyas from Bangladesh - back out to sea in rickety boats since early December. It accused the Thai navy of forcing several hundred of the migrants onto a barge in the middle of the ocean, where as many as 300 later drowned.

The UNHCR said in a statement Tuesday that Thai authorities were holding 80 Rohingyas on Koh Sai Daeng, a Thai island in the Andaman Sea. The whereabouts of 46 others, intercepted Friday on a boat and reportedly handed over to the Thai military, were unknown, the statement said.

"We're still awaiting a response from the Thai government to a request that we sent last week for further information on this issue," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters Tuesday in Geneva.

The Thai government has not confirmed that it is holding the migrants.

Thousands of Bangladeshis and Rohingyas - members of a Muslim ethnic group that fled persecution in Myanmar - leave Bangladesh aboard rickety boats each year in hope of finding work in neighboring countries. In the last three years, one of the most popular migration routes has been by boat to Thailand and then overland to Malaysia.

Abhisit said Tuesday that Thai authorities would investigate the recent incidents, though he insisted the government has no policy of mistreating illegal migrants.

"They (the agencies) should talk with us and see how we can work together," Abhisit told reporters. "But they also have to recognize the fundamental problem was not caused by Thailand. It is a problem of disparity of (economic) opportunities."

Separately Wednesday, the UNHCR asked Indonesia's Foreign Ministry for permission to visit the Sabang island navy base. Nearly 200 Rohingya migrants have been detained there since Jan. 7, when they were found floating in a cramped wooden boat without food or water off Indonesia's Aceh province.

The agency wants to evaluate their health and need for protection, U.N. spokeswoman Anita Restu said.

The Indonesian government has refused media access to the migrants, saying they are investigating.

Associated Press writer Anthony Deutsch in Jakarta contributed to this report.

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