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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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
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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid