News / Asia

Fleeing Rohingya Refugees Fired Upon, Says Rights Group

VOA News
Human Rights Watch is calling for an investigation into an incident in which the Thai navy allegedly shot at a group of Rohingya "boat people," killing at least two of the asylum seekers.

The New York-based group Wednesday said its investigation revealed that Thai sailors last month opened fire on about 20 Rohingya refugees during a mission to push the group back out to sea. Thailand rejects the allegation.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Rohingya Muslims have fled Burma in recent months to escape sectarian violence and state-sponsored discrimination.

Thailand has refused to accept most of the refugees. It has instead ordered its navy to intercept the boats and provide the passengers with food and supplies before sending them on their way.

Human Rights Watch has criticized the "push back" policy, saying Thailand is failing to provide the Rohingya asylum seekers with the protections required under international law.

Thai foreign ministry spokesperson Manasvi Srisodapol denied the existence of such a policy as described by Human Rights Watch and many other organizations. In an interview with VOA, he also insisted the Thai navy did not fire at the Rohingya.

"We do not encourage the use of force or any conduct that would be harmful to the safety of the people," he said. "We will also treat those in custody in line with relevant Thai laws, taking into account relevant humanitarian considerations."

Thailand's navy last week also strongly denied the allegations, saying the sailors would have had no reason to shoot at the Rohingya.

In the February 22 case, Human Rights Watch says around 20 Rohingya jumped overboard toward land to escape the custody of Thai sailors, who reportedly had pushed their drifting vessel back to sea off the coast of Phang Nga province.

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the Thai sailors opened fire on the refugees in the water, killing at least two. Four others say they managed to swim to shore and were hidden by Thai villagers. The fate of the rest of the passengers is unknown.

Human Rights Watch wants Thailand to investigate the incident and prosecute those found responsible. The group's Asia director Brad Adams said that "Rohingya fleeing Burma should be given protection, not shot at."

The United Nations says the Rohingya people are among the world's most persecuted minority groups. They are denied citizenship and many other basic rights in Burma, where they are regarded as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

Vivian Tan, a spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency, says that she cannot confirm the details of the February incident. But she said her agency is concerned about the fate of Rohingya refugees.

"U.N.H.C.R. has been advocating that people fleeing persecution should be able to be processed in the country or territory where they arrive.  So, they should not be pushed off for sure," said Tan. "They should definitely not be sent back to a place where their lives could be in danger."

An outbreak of sectarian violence in Burma's Arakan, or Rakhine state, between Rohingya Muslims and majority Buddhists has killed dozens and displaced hundreds of thousands in recent months.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs