News / Asia

US, UN Call for Probe into Thai Trafficking of Rohingya

Thai immigration police van carries a group of Rohingya Muslims to a port outside Ranong, Oct. 30, 2013.
Thai immigration police van carries a group of Rohingya Muslims to a port outside Ranong, Oct. 30, 2013.
Reuters
The United Nations and the United States called Friday for investigations into the findings of a Reuters report that Thai immigration officials moved Burmese refugees into human trafficking rings.
 
The report, published on Thursday and based on a two-month investigation in three countries, revealed a clandestine policy to remove Rohingya refugees from Thailand's immigration detention centers and deliver them to human traffickers waiting at sea.
 
The Rohingya, stateless Muslims from Burma, are then transported across southern Thailand and held hostage in camps hidden near the border with Malaysia until relatives pay ransoms to release them, according to the Reuters report. Some are beaten and some are killed.
 
“These allegations need to be investigated urgently,” U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Vivian Tan said in a statement. “We have consistently asked countries in the region to provide temporary protection, including protection against abuse and exploitation.”
 
Washington issued a similar call hours later. “We are aware of reports alleging that Thai officials have been involved in selling Rohingya migrants to human traffickers,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “We urge the Thai government to conduct a serious and transparent investigation into the matter.”
 
“We remain deeply concerned about the safety of and humanitarian conditions for vulnerable communities in Burma, including refugees and asylum seekers on Burma's borders and elsewhere in the region,” Harf added.
 
Major General Chatchawal of the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok was quoted in the Reuters report saying that there was an unofficial policy to deport the Rohingya to Burma. He called this “a natural way or option two.” But he said the Rohingya signed statements in which they agree they want to return to Myanmar. These statements, however, were at times produced in the absence of a Rohingya language translator, Reuters found.
 
“The detainees also need to be informed about their options in a language they understand,” said Tan, the U.N. spokeswoman. “Any decision to leave must be voluntary, and those who choose to leave must be protected against abuse and exploitation by smugglers.”
 
Possible sanctions
 
Separately, New York-based watchdog group Human Rights Watch criticized Thailand for moving detainees into established smuggling and trafficking rings, and warned Thailand could face a possible downgrade in a U.S. list of the world's worst enforcers of human trafficking laws.
 
Such a downgrade would place Thailand, a close U.S. ally and Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy, at risk of U.S. sanctions and put it on par with North Korea and Iran among the worst performers in fighting human trafficking.
 
“The Thai government has some serious explaining to do before the international community,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
 
The U.S. State Department is gathering information for its next Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report, due to be published in June. Thailand faces an automatic downgrade to Tier 3, the lowest rank, unless it makes “significant efforts” to improve its record in combating trafficking, the State Department says. The Tier 3 designation could leave Thailand subject to U.S. sanctions.
 
“Unless Thailand makes it a top priority to clean these rackets up, and investigate and prosecute all those involved, Bangkok should kiss goodbye any prospect of escaping Tier 3 in the annual U.S. anti-trafficking report,” Robertson said.
 
Sek Wannamethee, a spokesman for Thailand's Foreign Ministry, said the Rohingya issue was one of several the United States would take into consideration before deciding whether to downgrade or upgrade Thailand.
 
“The United States will look at the overall progress of Thailand,” he said. “The focus is on persecution and convictions, and Thailand has made substantive progress.”
 
The numbers suggest enforcement is losing steam. Nine people have been arrested in Thailand in relation to Rohingya-smuggling in 2013, including two government officials, according to police data. None of the arrests has led to convictions, however.
 
Thailand prosecuted 27 people for trafficking in 2012, down from 67 the previous year, according to the 2013 TIP Report by the U.S. State Department.
 
Clashes between Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists exploded in Burma last year, making 140,000 people homeless, most of them Rohingya. Since then, tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled Burma by boat.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
December 07, 2013 1:59 PM
Thai government has got nothing explaining to do before nobody. If international communities are serious the protection of human rights or human traffics, they should first examine what caused Asian countries including China to treat their Muslim citizens inhumanly.
First one has to look back for the last 12 years how Western countries portrayed Muslims in their media; terrorists, wild animals, sub-human, fascists, and so forth. Secondly, their actions; the invasion and destructions of Iraq, Afghanistan, killing of Pakistanis by drones, the continuation of Muslims imprisonment at GITMO, burning Quran in public, the calling of mass deportation of Muslims from Europe. All these fallacious rhetoric and deceptive action by the West caused Asian countries to maltreat their Muslim citizens.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid