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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More