Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Burma: "We were tied up and put into a boat, without an engine and were then dragged into the deep sea by a ship and set adrift."

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Thailand's Navy left about 500 Rohingya refugees to die in mid-ocean, after seizing them from the Thai coast and dragging them out to the ocean without engines, oars, food and water, according to Mohamed who explained through cell phone to KPN, currently detained in India.

"We were tied up and put into a boat, without an engine and were then dragged into the deep sea by a ship and set adrift. We were forced at gunpoint to get into one boat," he added.

Prior to this incident in December, about 500 people, including four Maji (steering men) with four motor boats, who had left from the Burma-Bangladesh border, were arrested by the coast guards, the Royal Thai Navy and police forces. They were held on an island in the Andaman Sea before being forced out into the ocean. They were also tortured by Thai authorities, while they were in custody and were kept in isolated islands, the boat-crew said.

After seizing them, the Thai authorities, dragged them out to sea and forcibly pushed them into boats without ration, water and oars. The authorities took them out to sea and left them to drift in mid-ocean. The refugees were aged 17 to 55.

After the authorities freed them the refugees drifted for about 12 days in the deep sea without ration, and some of the people (over 300) jumped into the sea on sighting a light house and thinking they were close to shore and are since missing.

However, some 107 refugees were rescued by the Indian Coast Guard from the Andaman Sea. They were treated for severe dehydration after being rescued by the Indian Coast Guard, sources from India said.

The rescued refugees are now detained in India.

But, Thai authorities, have repeatedly denied the over 500 migrants were left for dead in the ocean last month. They deported illegal immigrants, but they stick on to internationally accepted practice, sources said.

Thousands of Rohingya boat-people leave from Burma-Bangladesh border to abroad with shaky boats each year in hope of finding works in neighboring countries for jobless and various forms of persecutions by Burmese concerned authorities.

The news about the alleged ill-treatment of Rohingya boat people by the navy could aim at discrediting Thailand, Deputy Prime Minister overseeing national security, said Suthep Thaugsuban on Monday from Bangkok.
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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