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
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

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs