News / Asia

    UN Urges Thailand Not to Deport Rohingya Migrants

    A boat carrying 73 Rohingya refugees is intercepted by Thai authorities off the sea in Phuket, southern Thailand, January 1, 2013.
    A boat carrying 73 Rohingya refugees is intercepted by Thai authorities off the sea in Phuket, southern Thailand, January 1, 2013.
    VOA News
    The United Nations refugee agency is urging Thailand not to deport a group of Rohingya Muslim boat people, saying they could be in danger if they are sent back to Burma.

    UNHCR spokesperson Vivian Tan says that the group, which is allegedly fleeing sectarian violence and persecution in Burma's western Rakhine state, may be subject to punishment upon their return.

    "We're strongly advocating that they shouldn't be sent back," says Tan. "We're worried they may be punished, because there are rules where if they leave they need to apply for permits, and if they come back without these permits, we don't know what could happen - there might be some punitive measures."

    Tan says U.N. officials are meeting with Thai authorities Thursday in an attempt to gain access to the group so it can "find out exactly who they are and what they need."

    Thai officials said Wednesday the group of 73 migrants, including women and children, must be deported by land to Burma, but their current status is not known.

    The migrants were detained by Thai authorities this week after they were found drifting in a small, overcrowded boat off the resort town of Phuket, well short of what authorities say was their final destination, Malaysia.

    Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, says that Thailand should suspend any plan to deport the refugees until the U.N. determines whether they have legitimate claims for protection.

    He says Thai authorities, who are reluctant to absorb migrant workers from neighboring countries, must come up with a better policy for dealing with boat people.

    "For the first time, Thai authorities have intercepted a boat, filled up not with young Rohingya men seeking work in Malaysia, but families with young children and women," he says. "They are traveling together claiming they are escaping persecution, human rights violations, and violence in their homeland."

    Thai authorities do not accept boat people, but instead give them supplies to continue their often dangerous journeys to their final destination.

    The result is often deadly. In 2008 and 2009, hundreds of Muslim Rohingya refugees are believed to have died after being turned away by Thailand.

    Sunai says the problem is not going away, and that Thailand and other Southeast Asian nations must come up with a new policy to provide protection in coordination with U.N. agencies.

    "We want Thailand to come up with a clear policy that recognizes Thailand's international obligations to protect asylum seekers and refugees," he says. "And in this case it is very clear that political violence, communal conflicts and human rights violations in Burma's Arakan state are getting worse and worse, and we expect there will be more Rohingya families traveling by sea in order to seek refuge in Southeast Asia."

    The latest group of asylum seekers say there were headed for Malaysia, which has become a common destination for Rohingya refugees. On Sunday, about 450 Rohingya landed in Malaysia after a boat journey that left one person dead.

    Rohingya are fleeing Burma's western Rakhine, or Arakan, state, where an outbreak of violence in recent months has killed dozens and displaced hundreds of thousands.

    Rights groups accuse Burma's government of systematic persecution against members of the ethnic group, who are considered to be illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Jac from: Las Vegas
    January 04, 2013 3:36 AM
    Perhaps instead of issuing these useless pleas, the UNHCR should focus their efforts on getting other countries not in the region (like the US, UK, France etc) to share the burden and take in some of the refugees? Or is this hypocrisy at its finest.

    by: Moha_med from: NY
    January 03, 2013 11:20 AM
    There are number of Bangladeshi Muslims on the boat. So called right groups,UN agency, media are helping human Smuggling, fueling to southern Thailand Muslim insurgency, reduction of Bengladesh's population exploding. At 1970, Begladesh has 47 million population and now reached to 170 millions. Those Muslims never took any responsible for humanity but for sake of Allah and middle eastern thugs.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora