Monday, February 28, 2011

Burma’s Rohingya Refugees Take to High Seas

Thai Government was once again accused of ill- treating the Rohingyas who tried to flee Burma for fear of being persecuted. In a recently released News Release, Human Rights Watch pointed out that since mid January this year there have three incidents of boats of Rohingya that have arrived on the Thai coast. Another boat carrying 129 Rohingya landed in Aceh province of Indonesia on February 16. At least five additional boats are believed to have left Bangladesh and remain at sea. The report urges Thailand Government to investigate how the boat that landed with 91 people in Trang province ended up being in Andaman Islands and that too without a motor. Thai foreign ministry spokesperson Thani Thongphakdi in his statement on this incident mentions that this group of 91 “illegal migrants” was found ashore in Trang province and was "handled according to the country's immigration laws". According to Subir Bhaumik, though the Thais agree that they have deported the Rohingyas to Burma on other hand the refugees told the Indian police that their boat was set adrift without food and water and an engine by the Thai navy. According to Human Rights Watch though Thailand is non-signatory to 1951 Convention under customary international law the Thai government has an obligation of "nonrefoulement" – not to return anyone to a country where their life or freedom is at risk. The news release further urges that United Nations Refugee Agency should be given unhindered access to all boat arrivals of Rohingya in Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia and India.
To read more on Rohingyas being intercepted at high seas:
February 2011 Human Rights Watch news release, "Thailand: Give UN Access to Rohingya 'Boat People'".
Bhaumik, Subir. 2011. Thailand “deported” Burmese Rohingyas.

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