Rohingya boatpeople again pushed out to sea-Bangkok Pundit

March 17, 2010

Rohingyas resurface and again towed out to sea by the Thai authorities

Bangkok Pundit: March 15, 2010

A slight aside from all the UDD protests, but variety is the spice of life.

Won’t rehash all BP’s posts on the Rohingya boat people – see this post for a summary – where the Thai military pushed them out to sea, often after removing their motors and the result was that about 500 were missing believed drowned.

Now, news of the Rohingyas setting off for a third country including Thailand has been mentioned in the NGO community over the last few weeks. BP had heard privately that the Thai authorities were continuing to tow boats out to sea, but we finally have confirmation of this again. Phuketwan on March 9:

LOCAL contacts confirmed today that two Thai Navy vessels were moored off Raya, a popular dive destination a short speedboat trip from Phuket. A third Navy vessel was said to have an unidentified boat in tow.

Rohingya boatpeople were said to be close to Phuket last night, spotted in a vessel near Raya island, a popular diving daytrip destination for tourists.

About 60 people had sought rice and help from a fisherman, a radio report said. Could the Navy come to intercede?

Then, after one radio message from a local villager, the code of silence descended. Phuketwan prepared to make a boat trip to greet the Rohingya, but officials would neither confirm nor deny the presence of would-be refugees.

AP on March 13:

Malaysian authorities have picked up 93 Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar who said they spent 30 days at sea in a crowded wooden boat, an official said Friday.

The Rohingya men, an ethnic group not recognized by Burma’s military regime, had apparently been chased out of Thai waters before they were detained Wednesday off Malaysia’s northern resort island of Langkawi, said Zainuddin Mohamad Suki, an officer with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

The Thais denied they chased the boat away.

A fishing boat had earlier reported to the agency that the men were asking for food and water from passing vessels after their open boat experienced engine failure, he said.

Initial investigations showed they had been at sea for 30 days after fleeing their homeland, he said.

“Some of the men said they were chased out of Thai waters earlier before they made their way to Langkawi. They said they were sailing aimlessly in the hope of finding a country that will accept them,” Zainuddin told The Associated Press.

Vimon Kidchob, spokeswoman for the Thai Foreign Ministry, however, said troops gave the men food and water, suggesting the men left Thai waters of their own accord.

“The Rohingyas were not chased out of the Thai waters. Thai troops on the Andaman Coast found a group of non-Thai people in boats, so they gave the people food and water and let them continue their journey,” she said.

CNN on March 13:

A local Rohingya representative said that Thai authorities had towed the boat carrying the 93 boys and men out to sea and given them supplies, before cutting them adrift to float south into Malaysian waters.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi confirmed the Thai Navy did find a boat of refugees in international waters on March 4. The men told the Navy they were from Rakhine state in western Myanmar.

Thongpakdi insisted the Thai Navy gave them food and water supplies and then “let them go on their way,” because they’d told the Navy they were heading to another country.

BP: Well, we will have to see whether the statements by the Rohingya was correct that they were headed for a third country. Now, it is certainly possible they were heading to a third country, but as you can see from the Phuketwan report there is evidence of them making it to shore in Thailand. Perhaps, the Thai navy were able to “persuade” them that the Malaysians are much nicer and sent them on their way, but as we saw with the Hmong statements voluntary departures should be looked on sceptically.

On the broken engine, you will notice a difference between the latest “voluntary” departures compared with 2009, the Thai government is not removing the engine (from what BP has heard in a few cases, the engines are no longer being removed, but am unsure whether they are being tampered with or experienced engine failure after leaving Thai shores). Should we take this as progress that the engine is no longer removed?

partial h/t and also see these posts at Jotman (here and here) and GJBKK.

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