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Thailand Asks Neighbors to Cooperate on Illegal Immigration


Thailand is asking its neighbors to share information and procedures for handling illegal immigrants after being accused of abusing refugees from Burma. Meanwhile, Thailand has deported more than a hundred of the alleged refugees without granting United Nations requests to see them.

Officials from Thailand's foreign ministry met Friday with ambassadors from Burma, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

The neighbors discussed cooperation on illegal immigration across the Andaman Sea.

The meeting, and Thailand's call for cooperation, came after hundreds of Rohingya boat people washed up on shores in Thailand, Indonesia, and India with stories of abuse by the Thai military.

A human rights group said late last year nearly 1,000 Rohingya refugees were detained, beaten, and then left for dead at sea. The Thai military denies the accusations. The Thai government says it will investigate but maintains the Rohingya are economic immigrants and not refugees.

"Prevention is what we're talking about, said Tharit Charungvat, a Thai foreign ministry spokesman. "We have to work together to exchange information and intelligence of how they treat these people and share with us the information after they interview or interrogate all these people so we know exactly how these people have been sent out."

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority from Burma who fled persecution in the Buddhist country. Many are now living stateless in Bangladesh where people smuggling rings are believed responsible for at least some of their boat trips to find better lives.

Thai authorities late Friday said the last 126 Rohingya in their custody had been deported but it was not clear if they were taken by land or pushed back out to sea.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had asked Tuesday for access to the 126 Rohingya detained in Thailand but was never granted access.

Indonesia has nearly 200 Rohingya in its custody and has also refused to give the U.N. agency access.


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