International

Rohingya Muslims found stranded on Thai island

4:42 PM, June 12, 2019

Myanmar:Fishing boat that sailed from Bangladesh drifted ashore after running out of fuel.

File photo.

Thai authorities have discovered 65 Rohingya Muslims on an island in southern Thailand after their boat ran out of fuel.

The fishing boat was carrying 29 men, 31 women and five children when it landed on Koh Rawi in Satun province on June 11.

Authorities will investigate whether they are victims of human trafficking or illegal immigrants. They have detained a Thai national and five Myanmar nationals suspected of being the leaders of the group.

Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project that works for Rohingya rights, said the boat had sailed from Bangladesh with 130 passengers on May 27. A group of 65 disembarked near the Thailand-Malaysia border and arrived in Malaysia on June 5.

“We are thus quite sure that these are the remaining passengers for which we have not received any news about their disembarkation,” Lewa told ucanews.com.

Refugee agency UNHCR said it has requested the support of authorities in ensuring that the Rohingya are not deported from Thailand.

“Responsibility for the safety and physical protection of this group lies with the Thai authorities,” Jennifer Harrison, associate external relations officer for UNHCR Thailand, told ucanews.com.

She said UNHCR has requested access to the group to assess their protection needs and is ready to provide items such as hygiene kits, clothes or other core relief items.

Fortify Rights has called on the Thai government to protect Rohingya refugees and to end its policy of pushing boats of potential refugees or survivors of trafficking out to sea.

“Thai authorities are obligated to protect these new arrivals. Whether these Rohingya came from Myanmar or refugee camps in Bangladesh, they are refugees and have a right to protection,” chief executive Matthew Smith said in a statement on June 12.

“Rohingya are abused everywhere they go. All of ASEAN needs to band together to prevent that.”

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine State and Bangladesh have taken perilous boat journeys in pursuit of better opportunities in Malaysia and Thailand.

A crackdown on human trafficking in Thailand in 2015 triggered a humanitarian crisis when smugglers abandoned their human cargo on land and at sea.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh to escape a Myanmar military crackdown in Rakhine that began in August 2017.

A United Nations fact-finding mission in mid-September found that the Myanmar military's persecution of the Rohingya in Rakhine amounted to genocide.

Source: UCAN

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