Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thai Soldiers Force the Illegal Migrants from Bangladesh Back Out to Sea in Boats without Engines

This was another instance of inhuman treatment and securitization of borders in South Asia. Thousands of Burmese and Bangladeshis try to migrate to Thailand in search of work. Around 500 migrants from Bangladesh had reportedly paid Thai agents so that they could enter upon and have a better life in Thailand.

According to their accounts, they headed from Bangladesh to Thailand when their boats were intercepted around December 27, 2008 by Thai naval ships. They were detained with hundreds of other migrants for several days on a deserted Thai island in the Andaman Sea. It was reported that Thai soldiers tied the hands and then put them boats without engines. The only response from Thailand was a proposal to hold a conference to prevent the mass migration — and resulting suffering — of refugees after the Thai navy was accused of brutally mistreating boat people from Bangladesh.

Details of the report can be found on

People on the Run

According to Rajan Hoole, the capture of Kilinochchi in late December and the Mullaitivu ‘command hub’ in late January by government forces marked another milestone in the unending saga of Tamil refugees. From mid-2007, the bulk of the LTTE was confined to the Vanni, fighting in the last block of land under its control. By now, this war, running 30 years, during which the social fabric of the engaged societies has been shredded, has been shown to be futile. The civilians have been subject to Government and LTTE control and these people has been subject of state surveillance on ethnic grounds which show the lack of political will. Rajan Hoole further points out that in the Vanni, those who fled the LTTE were confined to detention centers, officially misnamed as ‘welfare centers’. One aspect confirming the prison status of these camps is the fact that families are not allowed to seek shelter with host families, hitherto a common arrangement for the displaced in Sri Lanka. People who had made arrangements to go abroad before they were displaced – such as young women whose fiancés were waiting for them – were also not allowed to leave. (After some delay, however, university students have been allowed to move out.). The people of the Vanni are now divided into three main groups: those who have escaped to India; those confined to camps south of Vanni by the Government and kept in isolation; and the estimated 2,50,000 within the shrinking LTTE-controlled area, living without proper care and shelter, and regularly subjected to army bombing and shelling. Recently some have also begun escaping north to the Jaffna Peninsula – an open-air prison. He feels that the recent developments should be read as a link between ideology, displacement, and political and military strategy. First is the Sinhalese nationalist extremist viewpoint that the island belongs to the Sinhalese, and is sacred to Buddhism. Second, there is the Tamil nationalist extremism. Although having violently marginalized the opposition among the Tamils, the LTTE was no match for the resources of the Sri Lankan state. An important factor has been the persistent absence of mature political leadership in the Sinhalese south.

Details of the report can be found on run_nw2819.html

Rohingya People from Myanmar at the Thai Shores

It is a quite common incident that Rohingya people from Myanmar appear in boatfuls at the Thai shores. But as the Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said recently, Thailand has no plans of opening camps for these boat people and would continue to uphold its policy of deporting them. The migrants would be given humane treatment, including provision for food and water, but would be subsequently deported as illegal aliens on shore. The Deputy added, “…We cannot afford carrying the burden of taking care of another 200,000-300,000 people…”
All these have come freshly under the limelight following reports of serial abuse of the stateless Muslim minority, the Rohingyas, from Myanmar’s northwest by the Thai military. Indonesia is currently questioning 198 Rohingya refugees who were found floating in a boat off the coast of Aceh for 21 days.

The Thai army has already admitted towing hundreds far out to sea before abandoning them. There are also allegations of their boat engines being sabotaged. Of 1,000 Rohingya given such treatment since early December, 550 are apprehended to have died. There have also been protests from within the Thai people against accepting the Rohingyas into their society. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says, 230,000 Rohingya now live a precarious, stateless existence in Bangladesh, having fled decades of abuse and harassment at the hands of Myanmar's Buddhist military rulers.

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