Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thailand may have caused the death of about 300 Rohingya refugees - Malaysia must act.

The allegation that more or less 300 Rohingya refugees may have died at sea when Thailand authorities put them back to sea during this monsoon period is getting more attention from rights groups.

The attention to this incident was also raised in a Burmese protest in Kuala Lumpur on 14/1/2009.

See also related earlier post - 325 Rohingyan Refugees feared death when authorities allegedly put them back to sea - Burmese demo in KL 14/1/2009

Human rights groups said today they were appalled at accusations that the Thai government sent hungry and desperate refuge-seekers from a Burmese ethnic minority back to the sea to die.


David Mathieson, an expert on Burma with New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the treatment of the Rohingya - a Muslim group from Arakan state in Burma near the Bangladesh border - was "completely unacceptable."

"These are really serious allegations that need to be investigated by the UN and the Thai government," he told AFP.

"They are not allowed to act this way and I don't think this is an isolated incident."

Accounts from activists and media have emerged in the past days of about 400 ethnic Rohingya landing in southern Thailand last year after fleeing Burma, only to be towed to sea and cast adrift by the Thai navy.

The Indian coast guard in December rescued about 100 people believed to be from the same group near a remote island chain in the Bay of Bengal, but a search for the remaining 300 was unsuccessful, Indian officials said at the time.

Navy denies allegation

The Thai navy yesterday denied allegations that they sent the Rohingya adrift, and the Foreign Ministry said it was investigating the claims.

A researcher with London-based Amnesty International said that Thailand had obligations under international law to screen asylum-seekers to determine if they were at risk of abuse back home.

"There reports, if true, would implicate the Thai military in extremely serious violations of the human right to food, to seek asylum and potentially the human right to life itself," said Amnesty's Benjamin Zawacki.

"Those determined to not be refugees cannot simply be pushed back into sea with their hands tied, effectively left to die. These reports need to be immediately and thoroughly investigated."

Local human rights organisations including advocacy group the Arakan Project said that a number of Rohingya landed on southern Thailand's Andaman coast late last year, only to be sent adrift with little food and water.

The Bangkok Post newspaper on Sunday carried an account from survivors.

"We were tied up and put into a boat without an engine ... we were then towed into the high seas by a motor boat and set adrift," survivor Zaw Min told the paper.

Rights groups say the Rohingya face religious and ethnic persecution from Burma's military regime, forcing thousands of them to take to rickety boats each year to try to escape poverty and oppression. - Malaysiakini, 19/1/2009 - Thailand accused of leaving refugees to die at sea

It may have happened in Thailand - and the victims may not be Malaysians but Malaysia must take up this issue and demand an investigation, and if found to be true an explanation.

Thailand, being a member of ASEAN also is a signatory of the Bangkok Declaration that stresses humane treatment - and sending them out to sea during this dangerous times is certainly not humane.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bring Thailand to justice. The sovereignty of a country must not overide basic human needs, freedom and life itself.