Overcrowding takes toll on Rohingya detainees

Source Bankokpost, 6 July

SPECIAL REPORT: Despite adequate food and clothing, migrants are suffering from cramped conditions and an uncertain future

More than 100 Rohingya migrants being detained in Kanchanaburi are being well fed and clothed, but crowded conditions have left many suffering aches and pains.

The Rohingya in the Kanchanaburi detention centre are among some 2,000 who have fled persecution in Myanmar, sailing to Thailand and arriving on the country’s shores since January.

They are awaiting resettlement in a third country and families have been separated during the process.

Immigration authorities chose to house the men in detention facilities scattered around the country, while the women and children have been placed under the care of the Social Development and Human Security Ministry.

Kanchanaburi immigration checkpoint inspector Pol Lt Col Somphon Kanchana said his office’s detention room in Muang district had earlier housed 150 Rohingya men.

To ease overcrowding, 40 of them had been moved to detention facilities in Ayutthaya and Rayong. This left 110 men at the Kanchanaburi facility.

As all the detainees had to stay in the same cramped and crowded room, some developed painful symptoms, such as muscular aches and arthritic pains.

Despite the uncomfortable conditions, most of the detainees now look better than when they arrived, Pol Lt Col Somphon said. They have been given plenty of food and new clothes have been provided by police at the facility.

Kanchanaburi Immigration Office has received financial support to feed the displaced Rohingya.

It has hired three Muslim cooks to prepare three meals a day for the detainees in accordance with their faith, the immigration inspector said.

Police have allowed the Rohingya to perform religious activities while being detained.

However, Pol Lt Col Somphon said some detainees suffered with health problems, particularly muscular and arthritic aches, as they lived in a packed room and had no space to walk.

Some had other health problems, such as headaches. Any who fall seriously ill are sent to a hospital outside the area.

Doctors from Phaholpolpayuhasena Hospital in Muang district visit the facility every Monday to give health check-ups.

To help them ease their muscle pains, detention facility staff are encouraging the Rohingya to exercise every morning, Pol Lt Col Somphon said.

He is afraid the Rohingya may develop psychological problems if they are detained for much longer.

The migrants want to know where they could be sent to and some missed their families after they were caught and sent to different detention shelters, he said.

Pol Lt Col Somphon said some migrants who could speak English had tried to ask about their future.

During a visit by the Bangkok Post, the Rohingya looked excited. They shouted and greeted the visitors. Many put on their clothes and wore a kapiyor, a Muslim head cover for men. Those who could speak English tried to communicate with the visitors.

When asked where they wanted to go, one Rohingya young man shouted "Freedom!" Another said "No" when asked whether he wanted to return to Myanmar.

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