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Indonesian Health Workers Say Burmese 'Boat People' Were Beaten

Indonesian health workers say a group of Burmese boat people rescued from seas off Indonesia this week have injuries that prove they were beaten.

The 198 Burmese Rohingya men were found drifting off western Indonesia Monday. They said they were beaten by authorities in Thailand who pushed them out to sea.

Health workers in Indonesia's northern Aceh province told the French news agency Wednesday many of the Burmese men have scars that likely resulted from being hit with sticks and ropes.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban reiterated Wednesday that the Thai military treats Burmese boat people humanely.

The 198 men say they were among 1,000 Burmese Rohingya who were dragged out to sea by Thai authorities last month with little food or water. The men say they drifted on a boat for three weeks, during which 22 of them died and their bodies were thrown overboard.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Burma who complain of persecution by the Burmese military in the majority Buddhist country. Many Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh and Thailand in search of a better life.

Thailand and Indonesia refuse to recognize the Rohingya as refugees and regard them as economic migrants who should be deported back to Burma.

The French news agency quotes Bangladesh's junior foreign minister, Hasan Mahmud, as saying that the issue of Rohingya migration requires a regional solution. Thailand offered last month to host a regional conference aimed at discussing the problem.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.