Jump to content

Boatload Of 70 Rohingya Refugees Arrested On Arrival In Phuket


Recommended Posts

Rohingya refugees arrested on arrival in Phuket


Some of the Rohingya men at Chalong Police Station earlier today.


One of the refugees removes his belt before entering the holding cells at the

Phuket Immigration Detention Center.

PHUKET: -- A boatload of 70 Rohingya refugees landed at Rawai Beach at the southern end of Phuket early this morning, only to be rounded up and taken to Chalong Police Station.

Duty Officer Boonlert Onklang of Chalong Police said he arrived at the beach with fellow officers at about 5:30am.

Within 90 minutes, police had arrested 35 of the refugees, who were wandering around the area.

“When they arrived, they had not eaten anything. We have provided them with food. Some of them are sick and have been given medication,” Chalong Police Superintendent Vichid Intharason told the Phuket Gazette.

Later this afternoon, about 1:45pm, police arrested 33 more Rohingya found wandering around near Rawai Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor), at the southwestern end of Rawai Beach.

“They told us there were 70 people [all men] all on the same boat, including those we arrested this morning,” Lt Col Boonlert told the Gazette.

“We have arrested 68 of them… We are now searching for the two who are still missing,” he added.

Col Vichid warned residents to keep beware suspicious-looking people in the area, and to report them to the police.

He added that officers had yet to confirm whether Phuket, or even Thailand, was the refugees’ intended destination.

“Their answers are still confusing and unclear. We have not been able to confirm whether they intended to pass through Thailand to get to other countries or if they wanted to work in Thailand,” Col Vichid said.

“But from my experience of working in the Immigration Bureau, Rohingya mainly use Thailand as a way to continue their journey to other countries.

“They are facing problems with the Burmese government and they need to find a way out. Leaving by boat is the easiest way,” he added.

Any Rohingya arrested on Phuket are to be handed over to Immigration officials or to the Royal Thai Navy Third Naval Area Command, Col Vichid explained.

He added that it has yet to be decided on how and where – not if – the detainees will be sent back to Burma.

One Rohingya man, aged 18, told the Gazette through a translator that he wanted to go anywhere – except back to Burma.

All 68 of the refugees arrested so far have been transferred to the Phuket Immigration Detention Center in Phuket Town, where they will spend the night.

The men have had to remove their belts as a precaution.


-- Phuket Gazette 2011-02-01

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thais must give UN access to boat people: HRW

BANGKOK, February 2, 2011 (AFP) - Thailand should urgently allow the UN refugee agency access to more than 200 detained boat people who are at risk of "atrocious" persecution in Myanmar, a rights group said Wednesday.

A group of 158 asylum seekers from the Rohingya ethnic group arrived in Thailand from Myanmar in January after "a perilous sea voyage in rickety, overcrowded boats", Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

Another 68 from the ethnic group -- described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities -- were arrested after landing in the southern Thai island of Phuket on Tuesday and were being prepared for repatriation, police told AFP.

Thailand has repeatedly refused to give the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to the detainees, the New-York based HRW said.

"The persecution of Rohingyas in Burma (Myanmar) is atrocious, but the Thai government continues to pretend that they are no different from any other undocumented migrant," said Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director.

Adams called on Thailand to allow the UNHCR to interview the detained Rohingya immediately to identify those seeking refugee status.

In the past human rights activists have condemned the Thai navy for sending Rohingya asylum-seekers back to sea.

The rights group said that in Myanmar, authorities have for more than three decades "systematically persecuted" the Rohingya, a Muslim minority living primarily in western Rakhine state, with little protest from other nations.

As many as 300,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they live in "primitive and squalid conditions" in both official and makeshift refugee camps, in fear of arrest or possible repatriation, HRW said.


-- (c) Copyright AFP 2011-02-02

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

BREAKING NEWS: 33 Rohingya remain detained in Phuket


Sixty-eight Rohingya were detained in Phuket on January 31.

Thirty-three remain detained at Phuket Immigration.

PHUKET: The whereabouts of the 68 Rohingya refugees who were arrested on January 31 when their boat drifted to Phuket’s shores has been confirmed by the Phuket Gazette.

Phuket Immigration late yesterday gave the Gazette access to 33 Rohingya men in custody at the Immigration Detention Center (IDC). The youngest in the cell was only nine years old and the oldest was 45, the detainees said.

Phuket Immigration officials originally said that the 68 men had been transferred to Phang Nga IDC. (See current issue of the Phuket Gazette, 'Where have the Rohingya gone?', on shelves this morning. Digital subscribers click here to download the full newspaper).

Officials now say that only 35 have been transferred to Phang Nga.

An employee at Phang Nga Immigration, who declined to give her name, yesterday again said that there were no Rohingya in detention at their facilities.

However, an independent source yesterday confirmed that the 35 were detained there.

Following appeals from the international community and local organizations, Senior Regional Public Information Officer Kitty McKinsey of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) told the Gazette that the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs has agreed to give that organization access to 226 Rohingya currently detained in Thailand.

Mrs McKinsey said the UNHCR was able to speak with nine teenagers on Thursday in Songkhla who were part of a group of 67 who were detained in that province on January 23.

Regarding the 68 who landed in Phuket, she said, “We expect to be able to talk to those men next week. They are apparently in Phuket, but I agree that there is confusion about exactly where they are because we’re not certain whether they are in two places or one place.

“We’ve been told that all 68 are on Phuket and that we’ll have access to them. We’re going to be accompanied by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I hope we’re going to be taken to see 68 people,” she said.

The UNHCR hopes to determine where the men come from, what their protection needs may be and whether or not they are seeking refugee status.

She said the UNHCR is also exploring whether 91 Rohingya who were intercepted and detained by Thai authorities on January 22 this year are the same group that arrived “starving” in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on February 3.

Members of that group said that they were detained in Thailand then towed out to sea by Thai authorities, human rights groups said.

The 32 men, and at least one child, being held in one of Phuket IDC’s two cells which are designed to hold 30 people, told the Gazette that they are happier, healthier and better looked after in those cramped conditions than they are in Burma.

On our arrival, the men crowded near the front of their cell and gave an enthusiastic greeting, all seemingly eager to share their story – and many smiling.

One man, 27-year-old Muhammad Amin, seemed to be the informal “spokesman” for the group.

Mr Amin explained that they had all, 70 originally (two remain unaccounted for after landing in Phuket), had set out from Maungdaw in Arakan State, Burma, on January 20.

He said their reason for leaving was that as Muslim Rohingya they face constant persecution and abuses at the hand of the Burmese government.

When asked for examples of their hardships at home, many of the men had something to say:

“We have no work – no jobs,” one said.

“We’re rice farmers and need rice to survive,” another said. “Then the government started taking from us 25 kilograms of every 100kg of rice we had.”

“Then they took away our land,” another added.

“We don’t have anything to eat if we stay in Burma. It’s a very difficult life,” Mr Amin said.

One of the men produced an identification card he said was issued by the Burmese government. The card, a flimsy piece of white paper in a plastic sleeve, identified him as a Muslim and his home “district”. Muslims in Arakan State issued such cards are not allowed to travel outside their home districts.

All of the men in the cell said that they have similar documents and that actual Burmese citizens have a “red ID” which permits them more freedoms.

Desperate for prospects of a better life, the 70 men pooled their money together and bought the wooden boat that was their home for 11 days as they headed for Malaysia.

“We wanted to go to Malaysia because it’s a Muslim country,” Mr Amin said.

However, their boat engine gave out on them and at the mercy of the winds they were blown to Phuket.

“We had no food on our journey, and it’s quite dangerous – especially when we leave from Burma,” he said.

The men said that no women joined them on their journey because of the dangers.

“We had to hide in fishing nets to avoid detection by the Burmese military,” one man said.

When asked what would happen if they were caught trying to leave the country, many of the men responded in unison, “We would be shot dead by the military”.

The men all said they were scared of being sent back to Burma and that if that were to happen, they would face 15 years imprisonment or a very heavy fine.

“We don’t care where we stay, as long as it’s not Burma,” Mr Amin said.

Phuket Immigration officers said that halal food and clothing is being provided to the 33 detainees by a local Muslim foundation.


-- Phuket Gazette 2011-02-12

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...