News / Asia

Thailand Calls for Regional Response to Rohingya Boat People

Rohingya minority children held by women board a bus after they were rescued by Thai authorities in Songkhla province, southern Thailand, Jan. 11, 2013.
Rohingya minority children held by women board a bus after they were rescued by Thai authorities in Songkhla province, southern Thailand, Jan. 11, 2013.
Ron Corben
Thousands of Muslim Rohingya fleeing sectarian violence in Burma’s Rakhine state have taken to the sea, ending up in Thailand, Malaysia and elsewhere. There are calls for a regional response to the humanitarian situation.

Hundreds of largely stateless Rohingya have been detained by authorities after landing on Thailand’s southern shores often aided by human trafficking gangs.

As more refugees arrived in recent weeks, there have also been accusations that the Thai military has been involved in detaining arriving boats and selling the passengers to human trafficking brokers who then transport them to Malaysia.

Senior Thai Foreign Ministry officials say they are investigating. In 2009 the Thai Navy faced charges of abandoning up to 1,000 Rohingya refugees at sea without engines and navigational aid as well as little food and water.

The latest charges came as the Thai Supreme Commander, General Tanasak Patimaprogorn, called on the international community to provide more assistance for the refugees.

Chris Lewa, an advocate for non-government group, the Arakan Project, says at least 13,000 people have fled parts of Burma’s western Arakan state in recent months.

“Rohingya people now have lost hope for a better future," Lewa said. "They could support some persecution before, but they kept their hope alive that something will improve in the future. The boat season we see this year examples of changes and one of them is that women and small children are leaving. That means entire families.”

In Thailand, more than 900 Rohingya are being detained after security forces raided known trafficking locations in Songkhla province.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political scientist from Chulalongkorn University, who met with refugee groups in Songkhla, expects more Rohingya to flee to Southeast Asia.

Panitan says the Thai government’s response has been in line with national security guidelines together with providing humanitarian aid.  But, with the Rohingya’s stateless legal situation, he says a regional response is required.

“The initial response is according to the National Security Council guidelines, use humanitarian responses in terms of setting up the help for these people especially for the women and children," he explained. "But, of course, they will be repatriated back but the problem is to where? And the situation is much more dangerous for them. So actually we don’t know what to do with them. The international community especially the agency responsible for taking care of these people should come up with a better guideline.”

Related video report by Steve Sandford
Rohingya Fleeing Burma Arrive in Thailandi
X
January 24, 2013 1:22 AM
Boats carrying what appear to be scores of Rohingya civilians are arriving on the shores of Thailand after weeks at sea. Ethnic Rohingya have been fleeing sectarian violence in Burma's Rakhine state. Steve Sandford reports on the continuing humanitarian fallout from the violence.
The International Committee for the Red Cross has been given access to the Rohingya and a interim agreement to allow the United Nations High Commission for Refugees access has also be agreed upon.

But a full response from the Thai government is still pending.

A Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman told VOA that senior government officials are meeting to formulate the Thai policy.  But, the Thai Army remains opposed to plans to set up a semi permanent camp for the detained Rohingya.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, says Thailand needs to work with regional countries and put pressure on Burma to grant citizenship to the Rohingya.

“Obviously we’re very hopeful that Thailand facing this large influx of boats will play a leadership role in galvanizing some other neighbors in ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] who have been affected by the Rohingya boats - for instance Malaysia, Indonesia perhaps Brunei," Robertson said. "Put concerted pressure on Burma to recognize the Rohingya as citizens.”

In the past year, sectarian violence in Burma’s western Rakhine state between the largely Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist community has left up to 200 people dead with more than 100,000 people forced into temporary camps. United Nations says the total number displaced by the conflict is around 500,000.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: dhruba chakma from: CHT, Bangladesh
January 23, 2013 2:34 AM
So called Rohingyas are not of Myanmar origin, though lived there for many years. They are Bengali migrants from Bangladesh. Asean nations should persuade Bangladesh to adopt her own people.

The Bengali migrants have much in common with the people of Bangladesh in terms of religion, culture and language. They will easily integrate into Bangladesh.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid