Monthly Archives: January 2013

205 Rohingya boatpeople handed out food and water before “allowing” their journey toward Malaysia


Racha Rohingya ‘helped on’ by Thai Navy

Phuket Gazette – 29 Jan
PHUKET: The group of Rohingya refugees discovered off Koh Racha Noi today – numbering 205 in total – were given food and water before being “helped on” in their southbound journey.

On hearing the news of the refugees’ arrival, Rawai Municipality quickly dispatched a speedboat with basic provisions. The boat departed Chalong Pier about midday, and on arriving at Koh Racha Noi officers on board discovered that a Royal Thai Navy vessel was already there.

About 10 Thai Navy officers checked the refugees and handed out food and water before “allowing” the refugees to continue their journey toward Malaysia, the Phuket Gazette was told.

Throughout the day the Gazette received conflicting reports about the refugees: some stating that there were only men and boys on the boat; others claiming women and children were also on board, as has been the trend with recent Rohingya arrivals in Thailand.

One of the reports received by the Gazette identified Sarit Chandee, a villager on Koh Racha Yai, saying that the Rohingya were first spotted at sea by local fisherman last night.

Mr Sarit described the boat as having two levels, being only several meters wide and 30m long.

The Gazette has yet to learn whether the hundreds of Rohingya reported earlier today at Koh Phra Thong, on the Phang Nga coast north of Phuket, were also “helped on” – or if they were taken into custody by Thai officials, like the hundreds of Rohingya who have arrived by boat over the past few weeks.

The number of Rohingya coming ashore in Phang Nga has forced officials to relocate hundreds of them to immigration centers in other provinces across Southern Thailand (story here).

State news agency MCOT reported yesterday that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought clarification from a variety of agencies on the plight and options of well over 1,000 Rohingya migrants currently in Thai custody (story here).

Asylum seekers drown on way to Australia


SMH, 29 Jan

At least two Sri Lankan asylum seekers have died and a third is missing after their boat smashed into rocks off the coast of Central Java as they made their way to Australia.

Twenty survivors, including a four-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, were on Tuesday being held on the island of Nusa Kambangan near the coastal town of Cilacap.

Another two survivors had been taken to a hospital in Cilacap for treatment.

The group is believed to have left Sri Lanka for Australia about two months ago, and was about to begin the final leg of their voyage to Christmas Island when the boat’s engine broke down on Monday.

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The vessel drifted for hours before it foundered on rocks at Nusa Kambangan.

The island, known as the Alcatraz of Indonesia, is home to maximum security prisons and was where some of the 2002 Bali bombers were incarcerated and later executed.

Local fisherman spotted the asylum seekers at about 7pm on Monday evening.

The head of the Cilacap immigration office, Syamsul Bahri, said the vessel had originated from Sri Lanka and was transiting through Indonesian waters on the way to Christmas Island.

"They’re saying that they’re … heading to Australia," he said on Tuesday.

He said the survivors would be moved to an immigration detention centre in Semarang.

Hundreds of asylum seekers perished last year attempting to make the crossing from Indonesian waters to Christmas Island.

AAP

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/asylum-seekers-drown-on-way-to-australia-20130129-2djcg.html#ixzz2JbMDX74a

Myanmar nationals charged for trafficking people


Source nst, 27 Jan

ALOR STAR: Eight Myanmar nationals were charged at the Sessions Court today with trafficking in 474 people from their homeland into the country end of last year.

Teh Oun, 52, Aung Win, 45, Ton Lil, 30, Tan Win Mow, 29, Tun Tun Ni, 25, Til Wen, 25, Ah Hin, 20, and Lia Min Tong, 20, were jointly charged with trafficking in their countrymen who had no valid travel documents.

No plea was recorded from the accused who were alleged to have committed the offence in Pantai Kok, Langkawi, near here about 10.20am on Dec 30.

A raiding party comprising several government agencies rounded up the accused and their victims on a boat near Pantai Kok, Langkawi.

The victims were believed to be supplied as labourers in the country.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Azlina Hashim applied to the court to fix a new date to allow the prosecution to appoint an interpreter.

Judge Mohd Rosli Osman fixed March 4 for mention.

Read more: Myanmar nationals charged for trafficking people – Latest – New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/latest/myanmar-nationals-charged-for-trafficking-people-1.208546#ixzz2JPLpvLAk

96 more Rohingya found at sea, Thailand


Source Bankok Post, 26 Jan

PHANGNGA – Security forces on Saturday rounded up another 96 Rohingya migrants in the Andaman Sea, the fourth group to reach southern Thailand in less than a month, Spring News Agency reported.

The 62 men, six women and 28 children were found in a long-tailed boat floating north of Koh Ra in tambon Koh Phra Thong of Takua Pa district.

All of them were in exhausted condition and some were sick.

The migrants were arrested by a team made up of border patrol, marine police and administrative officers after they had been alerted to the suspicious vessel.

The refugees had left Arakan State in western Myanmar on Jan 1, aiming to come ashore in either Thailand or Malaysia. They wanted to look for jobs after their houses and property had been occupied by Myanmar authorities, Spring News reported, quoting local authorities.

The illegal migrants, who are in poor physical condition, had brought only fresh water and uncooked rice with them during the 26-day sea journey.

Officials gave them food and water before sending them to a temporary shelter in Khura Buri district, where they later received health checkups by medical personnel. Doctors gave saline solution to 12 sickened Rohingya.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said earlier that a total of 1,390 illegal Rohingya migrants including children were currently in authorities’ custody. Saturday’s arrest has raised the total to almost 1,500.

Mr Surapong announced on Friday that Thailand would shelter the Royingya for six months and seek talks with Myanmar and other countries to settle the fate of the illegal migrants.

The decision was reached in talks between the Foreign Ministry and other security agencies amid growing calls for Thailand not to turn the migrants away after they have entered the kingdom.

The government will set aside a budget of 12 million baht or 75 baht a day for each of the migrants for a daily allowance.

Bangkok will hold talks with international agencies including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the International Organisation for Migration, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. It would also approach third countries willing to give the migrants a new home, the minister said.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Myanmar. Most of them live in Rakhine state in the west and face brutal treatment from Myanmar authorities, including the reluctance of Nay Pyi Taw to grant them citizenship.

The current crisis came to light after authorities rounded up more than 900 Rohingya in separate operations in Songkhla as they were waiting to be sent to work in Malaysia.

A police investigation found some Thai army soldiers were linked to trafficking them from Myanmar to Malaysia through Thailand. Two of them based in the southernmost region are being probed in connection with the issue.

Rohingya: Only 4 meals in 16 days at sea


Source Phuket Gazette, 24 Jan

All 179 of the refugees were exhausted after surviving 16 days at sea on just four meals of water and uncooked rice. Photo: Kritsada Mueanhawong
All 179 of the refugees were exhausted after surviving 16 days at sea on just four meals of water and uncooked rice. Photo: Kritsada Mueanhawong

PHUKET: The 179 Rohingya taken into custody north of Phuket yesterday survived on four meals of uncooked rice in their 16 days at sea, one of the survivors told officials.

Local fishermen spotted the refugees – fleeing escalating ethnic violence in their native Rakhine State in Myanmar – off the Phang Nga coast at about 11am.

About 30 officers from the Kuraburi District Office, Takuapa Border Patrol Police and Phang Nga Marine Police intercepted the single boat the refugees were travelling in about three nautical miles north of Koh Phra Thong (map here).

“They departed Rakhine State in Myanmar on January 7. They were at sea for 16 days, hoping to reach Thailand or Malaysia in order to find work,” Kuraburi District Chief Manit Pianthong said. "They all are exhausted."

“They said they had only four meals of uncooked rice and water since they left the state,” he added.

The refugees were taken to Kuraburi Community Hall. Nineteen of them were in need of urgent treatment and were immediately placed on saline drips by medical staff.

“Doctors and nurses were called in to take care of them – some of the refugees have fevers and others have open wounds. Doctors have placed them all on a course of antibiotics,” Chief Manit said.

“Officers have to provide them with food, drink and other care before handing them over to Phang Nga Immigration for deportation,” he added.

This latest arrival of Rohingya refugees in Phang Nga follows a welfare shelter in Khukkhak (story here), also in Phang Nga, on Monday calling for donations of daily necessities in order to provide assistance to 46 Rohingya women and children receiving shelter there.

Rohingya houses burnt in Buthidaung


Source RARC, 24 Jan

On 23 January 2013 around 10:30pm, at least 2 Rohingya houses were burnt down into aches at Ward No. 1 of Buthidaung Township, Arakan State, Burma, according to a local resident on condition of anonymity.

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSMxckP1DBUOiqBt6LsqdPqOvzPdzPHxvMqepGbdkMkRcW_essUqQFire broke out from electrical engine house which has been operating by the Rakhine national. There is controversy on the breaking of fire in both residents of Rakhine and ethnic Rohingya, while the Rohingya believe that Rakhine conspired to burn down the Rohingya houses from nearby areas, while the Rakhine claim that the fire was broke out from electric sort, he further told.

No any person was injured at the house burning incident, while at least Kyat 80 million worth of wealth were brunt down.

However, the local officials, particularly the members of NaSaKa (Border Security Forces) and other concerned authorities are investigating the real incident. Besides, the losers of these 2 houses are believed to be punished with both imprisonment and fine under the country’s penal code.

The owners of these 2 houses are feeling fear of unbearable pressures and punishment without fair investigation, while no Rohingya has chance to make enough income for their survival and family support for the reasons of severe restrictions, imposed against them.##

Myanmar tragedy, result of wrong US policies: Iran MP


Source Presstv, 21 Jan

This picture taken on October 11, 2012 shows a Muslim Rohingya child standing outside his tent at the Say Thamagyi Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Myanmar
This picture taken on October 11, 2012 shows a Muslim Rohingya child standing outside his tent at the Say Thamagyi Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Myanmar’s western Rakhine State.

Iranian lawmaker Mansour Haqiqatpour says the humanitarian disaster in Myanmar is a result of the “wrong policies” adopted by the global arrogance, particularly the US.

“The disaster in Myanmar is the result of the wrong policy of the global arrogance, particularly the US, that has had no outcome but the hatred and displacement of a number of innocent people,” the deputy chairman of Iran’s Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee said on Monday.

Haqiqatpour went on to criticize the silence of the international community and the so-called advocates of democracy on the disastrous situation of Myanmar’s Muslims.

A “humanitarian disaster” is unfolding in Myanmar due to the US meddlesome policies and many “fake advocates of freedom” are justifying the suppressive measures in this country, the Iranian lawmaker said.

Some 800,000 Rohingyas are deprived of citizenship rights due to the policy of discrimination that has denied them the right of citizenship and made them vulnerable to acts of violence and persecution, expulsion, and displacement.

Myanmar’s government has so far refused to extricate the stateless Rohingyas in the western state of Rakhine from their citizenship limbo, despite international pressure to give them a legal status.

Hundreds of Rohingyas are believed to have been killed and thousands displaced in attacks by Buddhist extremists. The assaults have been mainly carried out in the western state of Rakhine.

Earlier this month, an Iranian parliamentary delegation visited Myanmar to examine the situation of the Rohingya Muslims and find ways to help them.

“During our stay in this country, we visited camps and different areas particularly Muslim and Buddhist-populated districts and realized that their situation is very dire,” said Haqiqatpour, who was a member of the Iranian delegation.

A 24-ton consignment of humanitarian aid to ethnic Rohingya Muslims also arrived in Myanmar from Iran earlier this month. Tehran further plans to set up a camp that can accommodate thousands of Rohingya refugees in the Rakhine State.

MYA/HMV/HJL

Thai Military warns against setting up Rohingya camp


Source Bankokpost, 18 Jan

BANGKOK – Thailand would have to shoulder full responsibility for the wellbeing of the Rohingya refuges if a camp was up for them in this country, Supreme Commander Thanasak Patimapakorn warned on Friday.

"It is up to the government to decide whether or not a Rohingya refugee camp is to be established," Gen Thanasak said.

"In terms of humanitarian assistance, we’ll initially provide them with food and shelter in accordance to regulations, but in the long run they’ll have to leave.

"Foreign countries want Thailand to help the Rohingya, but they don’t offer to help us with it."

He called on all relevant agencies to jointly find a solution to the Rohingya problem.

The supreme commander said Thailand was merely a transit point for the Rohingya migrants, not their intended destination. They were not invading the country, he added.

Rohingya migrants are being held at Thung Lung police station in Songkhla’s Hat Yai district. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who is in charge of national security, said the Rohingya migrants must be transported to other countries. It was a very delicate issue, he added.

"The international community might see Thailand as being cruel if we turn away from them, but we must protect the country’s interests at the same time," Mr Chalerm said.

He said the Foreign Ministry is now taking care of the problem.

"The Interior Ministry won’t come into play if there’s no need to set up a refugee camp in the country," Mr Chalerm said.

He said the best way to handle the problem is to send the migrants off to other countries. But they must not be deported back to Myanmar or Thailand would suddenly find itself on the end of a stream of criticism.

The issue has not been discussed with the government of Myanmar, according to the deputy premier.

Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher on Thailand in Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said so many Rohingya people are migrating because they have been denied citizenship in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Mr Sunai is urging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to press Myanmar into granting citizenship to the minority ethnic group.

However, it might be difficult to pressure Bangladesh, which is controlled by a totalitarian regime, he added.

Asked about the UN’s proposal for a Rohingya refugee camp in Thailand, Mr Sunai said it was more likely such facility would be located in Malaysia or Indonesia.

Wisut Binlaatah, director of the Sheikhul Islam Office in the South, said the Rohingya refugees will be assisted in two phases.

First, the Thai public will be asked to donate food and clothing. In the long term, the office will call on the Thai government to encourage Myanmar to address its ethnic conflicts.

Unless the situation settles and there is peace in Myanmar, Thailand should not look to sending them back, Wisut added. He also asked other Muslim countries to offer asylum to the Rohingya.

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Villagers in the southern province of Pattani have donated food and other supplies to the to Rohingya refugees, who an ethnic war in Myanmar.

The head of shelter for families and children, Takorn Hemwichian, said 22 Rohingya, 18 men and four women, have been offered accommodation there. They were captured after being smuggled into Thailand through tambon Padang Besa, Sadao district of Songkhla province.

Mr Takorn said that the building’s existing guestroom was not large enough to accommodate all of the refugees, so they had to build another one.

He admitted that staff initially had some problems in communicating with the new arrivals, but a Myanmar worker had now been hired as an interpreter.

Local peoplehave been donating food to the shelter. However, the refugees were not accustomed to Thai food. Instead, Mr Takorn is asking the people to give cash which could be used to buy what they could eat.

One Rohingya woman said that her husband had been taken by soldiers in Myanmar and she had no idea of his fate. She is now left with their seven children to care for.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Manasvi Srisodapol said on Friday the Rohingya people who were smuggled into Thailand will be subject to Thai laws but will be treated in accordance with international human rights standards,

Mr Manas, the Department of Information director-general, said the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN refugee have offered their assistance.

The government also intends to consult with Muslim leaders on how to best address the problem in the long-run, he said.

RSF: How long will the Burmese media spring last ?


Source RSF, 17 Jan

How long will the Burmese media spring last ? Read a 19 pages report of RSF on Burmese media spring via the link here..

Reporters Without Borders is today releasing a report entitled “The Burmese Spring” about the rapid progress that freedom of information has made in Burma, but also about the limits of this progress and the dangers it faces.

The international community is witnessing an unprecedented democratic transition in this Southeast Asian country after half a century of military dictatorship. But, as things stand, the possibility of the reforms being perverted cannot be ruled out.

For 25 years, Reporters Without Borders was on a blacklist that prevented it from visiting Burma. Imprisoned journalists such as Win Tin, one of the symbols of the fight for freedom of information, and Democratic Voice of Burma’s video-journalists could only be supported from a distance during this period.

Reporters Without Borders was finally taken off the blacklist on 28 August 2012, allowing it to visit Burma and observe the initial results of government reforms easing restrictions on the media.

“There has been historic progress for the media and the ground covered by the government has been striking, as evidenced in the recently announced revision of the repressive laws affecting the print media,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The release of imprisoned journalists and the end of prior censorship represent the start of a new era for Burma’s journalists.

“The information ministry’s announcement on 28 December that the publication of privately-owned dailies will be permitted from next April is evidence of a commitment to pursue the reforms. But we are now waiting for these promises, especially the creation of independent dailies, to be realized.”

Although censorship has been lifted, the censorship bureau, called the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), has still not been disbanded and still wields a great deal of repressive power because it can still suspend any weekly that publishes “forbidden” content.

In the absence of a law providing the media with effective protection, there is a real danger of journalists censoring themselves after decades of government censorship. Officials have not shed their repressive tendencies, as witnessed by the many legal proceedings against privately-owned weeklies in 2012.

The report draws attention to the dangers of media sector transformation without an appropriate legal framework, to the specific problems of exile media that have returned to Burma, and to the lack of adequate media coverage of the humanitarian crisis in the western province of Arakan.

Reporters Without Borders calls on the Burmese government to curb lawsuits against the media and to support the rapid repeal of repressive laws and adoption of a media law that respects freedom of information.

It encourages the Burmese media to increase their interaction with the various journalists’ associations and unions in order to revitalize the media sector and defend its interests.

And finally, Reporters Without Borders urges the international community to condition its assistance on respect for fundamental freedoms, especially freedom of information.

Download the report : "The Burmese Spring"

Thailands Muslim Chief pleads for help for Rohingya


Source Thai Financial Post, 17 Jan

BANGKOK, 17 January 2013 (NNT) â” Thailandâs Muslim Chief has shed tears during his visit to hundreds of Rohingya migrants, who were recently apprehended during the raids on hidden camps in the far South.

Chularatchamontri Aziz Pitakkhumpol, the spiritual leader of Muslims in Thailand, on Wednesday, traveled to the Padang Bezar checkpoint in Sadao District of Songkhla Province, where more than 300 Rohingya Muslims are being detained.

More than 800 Rohingya migrants have recently been found hidden in secret camps along the Thai-Malaysian border region. They are under detention at various state facilities in the southern border province.

Mr. Aziz, accompanied by members of the Central Islamic Council of Thailand, the Songkhla Central Islamic Council and the Thai-Pakistani Friendship Association, also offered 300,000 baht in cash to be used for food, medicines and necessities needed by all detained Rohingya.

While shedding his tears, the Muslim spiritual leader said that he would not want to see the Rohingya to be pushed back to Myanmar, where their fate will be still be quite harsh.

He also pleaded for state collaboration with the third country, where the Rohingya wish to travel to.

Meanwhile, Pol Col Krissakorn Pleetanyawong, Deputy Commander of Songkhla Police, revealed that at least 10 Thai and Myanmar nationals have been charged for their involvement in the trafficking of the Rohingya, with arrest warrants already issued for 3 more suspects.

( Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol)

UN, 20 nations join Thailand to help Rohingya
Source The Nation January 17, 2013 1:00 am

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Envoys hold conference to organise support; UNHCR granted permission to visit refugees

Envoys of more than 20 countries yesterday joined a teleconference that was held to address the grievances of and get help for more than 850 Rohingya people. These illegal migrants were arrested in Thailand’s South earlier this month.

The conference focused on immediate assistance and the legal procedures involved.

At the teleconference were representatives of various countries including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Australia, the United States, New Zealand as well as the European Union.

In a related development, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) disclosed it had already received the Thai authorities’ permission to access these Rohingya refugees.

"The Thai authorities have agreed in principle to give us access," said Golam Abbas, UNHCR’s Representative ad interim in Thailand. "We would like this to happen as soon as possible, so that we can jointly look at their immediate humanitarian and protection needs."

"If there are people seeking asylum among the group, they should have access to a mechanism to assess their material and protection needs. This could be through Thailand’s existing Provincial Admissions Board or another agreed arrangement. We are ready to provide our support and expertise as needed," he said.

Some 115,000 Rohingya people remain internally displaced within Myanmar’s Rakhine state following inter-communal violence in June and October last year. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said Tuesday her government would provide humanitarian care for the refugees and instructed the Foreign Ministry to work with the UN on the issue.

The UN said it welcomed public assurances from Yingluck that the group would receive temporary assistance in Thailand in respect of the principle of non-refoulement. This principle states that under international customary law, no one should be sent back to a place where his or her life and freedom could be endangered. UNHCR has sought access to this group, and cannot confirm their number or identity without first talking to them.

Thailand’s Chularatchamontri, the country’s Muslim spiritual leader, visited the arrested Rohingya in Songkhla yesterday. With tears in his eyes, he urged authorities to contact a third country where the migrants could get jobs and humanitarian assistance.

"Please don’t send them back to Myanmar," he said.

The Burmese Rohingya Association Thailand, at the same time, called on the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC) to prevent any deportation of the Rohingya.

"We have never agreed with deportation. Sending the Rohingya back is like sending them to hell," NHRC commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara said.

He also expressed concern that the Rohingya refugees might fall victims to human traffickers.

"We will consult with relevant authorities in a bid to prevent violation of the Rohingya people’s rights," Niran said.

Speaking separately, Mamadjorkhid from Myanmar said he could not feel any human dignity in his homeland.

"Soldiers always harassed us. They were always taking away whatever we had in hands or farms," the 24-old-man said. He has now settled down in Thailand’s Ranong.

Nobihuzon, 40, said he felt he had no future while living in Rakhine. "Many neighbours felt the same way. So, we pooled the money to buy a fishing trawler and started our boat trip," he said.

It took him more than 20 days to reach Thailand, where he had now lived for more than 22 years.

"I can live without fear now. I have already got myself registered as an alien worker," Nobihuzon said.

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