Category Archives: Arrest, Detention and Deportation

Boatpeople Spotted Between Phuket and Krabi as Riddle of Missing Rohingya Grows, Phuket Wan

PHUKET: A vessel believed to be crammed with up to 100 Rohingya has been sighted off the coast of Krabi, near Phuket in Thailand, as the mystery over the whereabouts of thousands of boatpeople deepens.

The rickety boat was sighted off the mainland, heading for Koh Yao Yai, a small island that is home to several five-star resorts, between Krabi and Phuket.

Fishing trawlers and a network of small civilian vessels inform local district chiefs of sightings that are usually relayed to Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, which oversees safety at sea.

”We think it was definitely a Rohingya boat,” an official said. ”But we lost contact with it quickly.”

As many as 12,000 members of the Muslim minority in Burma are reported to have fled to sea to avoid persecution since October 15 but only a few hundred have fetched up along Thailand’s Andaman Sea coast, alarming activists who fear something has gone amiss.

”Where are they?” Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, which plots migration across the Bay of Bengal, told Reuters on Saturday. ”We have become very concerned.”

Back in 2009, Phuketwan journalists discovered that boatloads of Rohingya were being towed out to sea by the Thai military and left without engines or sails. Hundreds perished at sea before survivors washed ashore in India and Indonesia.

Five years on, there is no suggestion of a similar occurrence. But the families of the thousands who are now missing have no clue as to their fate.

Many could be being kept by traffickers in secret jungle camps in mangrove-covered islands along the shores of the Thai provinces of Phang Nga and Ranong, close to the border with Burma, where more than 500 boatpeople from Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh have been apprehended in recent weeks.

Almost all of those men, women and children have been taken into custody by local officials, working with Buddhist, Christian and Muslim volunteers to halt the flow of human trafficking victims through Thailand.

With each newly-discovered batch of boatpeople comes an extended debate about whether the unwanted arrivals are human trafficking victims or merely illegal immigrants.

Police and welfare organisations are reluctant to treat the arrivals as trafficked victims because funds and government accommodation are limited.

By categorising the Rohingya as ”Burmese” under laws that allow Thailand to deal more easily with unwanted arrivals from neighboring Burma, Laos and Cambodia, officials can quickly truck the apprehended groups back to the border where they are often delivered straight into the arms of human traffickers again.

The Rohingya, stateless in Burma, are denied all rights and being driven from Rakhine state by hateful Buddhist neighbors. It’s ironic that only as unwanted captives in neighboring Thailand can they achieve their aim of being categorised as Burmese citizens.

Along the coast, district authorities and village chiefs have formed networks among fishing boats to alert them to the presence of boatpeople fleeing Burma and Bangladesh.

Officials from the Department of Special Investigations and the Internal Security Operational Command in Bangkok recently visited the Andaman provinces to assess levels of human trafficking.

Of a boatload of 259 men, women and children who were apprehended near the town of Kaper, 80 Bangladeshis have been sent for processing through a court in Ranong while the other 219 are to be deported as ”Burmese Muslims.”

Burma does not accept the Rohingya as citizens so they cannot return. These people are destined for human traffickers.

Of 86 people being held in the nearby town of Kuraburi, 12 categorised as ”Burmese Muslims” are being sent to Immigration in Phang Nga while the others, all Bangladeshis, are to appear in Phang Nga court as illegal immigrants.

As trafficking networks grow along the region’s Indian Ocean coastline, growing numbers of men from Bangladesh are also being enticed onto boats in search of better jobs in Malaysia.

Bangladeshi authorities are holding five Thais who have been accused of human trafficking and other arrests have been made in Thailand.

Boatpeople Apprehended in Thailand, Sailing Season 2014-2015

September 23 37 boat people at Takaupa, categorised as illegal immigrants. Sentenced to 20 days in jail, now held by Immigration for deportation

October 11 53 boatpeople at Takaupa, categorised as victims of human trafficking, held in shelters at Ranong, Songkhla and Phang Nga

October 13 81 boatpeople at Takaupa, categorised as victims of human trafficking, held in shelters at Ranong, Songkhla and Phang Nga

October 24 boatpeople at Suksamran, categorised as illegal immigrants, sent to Ranong Immigration

October 78 boatpeople at Suksamran, Twelve ”Burmese Muslims” sent to Ranong Immigration, Bangladeshis passed to court system

November 8 299 (overnight suddenly reduced to 259) boatpeople at Kaper. 80 Bangladeshis sent Ranong court, 179 ”Burmese Muslims” at Ranong Immigration

November 11 86 boat people at Kuraburi, 12 ”Burmese Muslims” to Phang Nga Immigration, Bangladeshis to Phang Nga court

ByChutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison

Ranong villagers trained to feed and ‘push on’ Rohingya boat people

Officials in Ranong have trained some 400 villagers to watch out for illegal Rohingya ‘boat people’ and told them to alert the authorities if they see anyone from the stateless ethnic group.
The move is part of a project called “Andaman Guard”. It aims to convince migrants travelling along the route from Myanmar to Thailand not to go ashore – by providing them food, medicine and fuel so they can continue to a third country.Ranong police captured 299 Rohingya – including 23 women and 13 children – in two round-ups this month, deputy provincial chief Pol Colonel Kritsak Sungmulnak said.

The first of 104 Rohingya arrests in Ranong was recorded to have occurred in 1998, with the number of illegal migrants entering the country rising each year.

They travel the 1255km from western Myanmar to Thailand on fishing boats when the sea is generally calmer between November and April. Thousands are said to have taken to boats in recent weeks. The journey typically takes about a fortnight.

By The Nation

Thailand to push back more than 200 boat people

More than 200 boat people held in southern Thailand will be pushed back out to sea, police said on Monday, despite calls by rights group to stop a policy that puts would-be asylum seekers at risk.

Around 259 people were found at sea on Saturday and were arrested for illegal entry.

Their discovery around 3 km (1.86 miles) from the coast follows what one NGO said was a “major maritime exodus” from neighboring Myanmar of Rohingya, a mostly stateless Muslim minority group from the country’s west.

“On average around 900 people left by boat from the middle of last month. We saw a major maritime exodus of nearly 10,000 people,” said Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, a Rohingya advocacy group, adding that increasing desperation was one reason for the departures.

Authorities in Thailand’s Kapoe district said it was unclear whether any of the group were Rohingya but interviews with some of the group showed they were heading for Malaysia to find work or, in the women’s’ cases, join their husbands.

The 259 will be put back on boats and sent back to Myanmar, said Police Colonel Sanya Prakobphol, head of Kapoe district police.

“They are Muslims from Myanmar … They are illegal migrants,” Sanya told Reuters by telephone.

“If they come in then we must push them back … once they have crossed the sea border into Myanmar then that’s considered pushing them back. What they do next is their problem.”

Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state since 2012, when violent clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists killed hundreds and made about 140,000 homeless.

Many were Rohingya, who now often live in apartheid-like conditions and have little or no access to jobs, schools or healthcare.

The boats often sail from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Thailand where, as Reuters reported last year, human trafficking-gangs hold thousands of boat people in brutal jungle camps until relatives pay ransoms to secure their release.

Testimonies from Bangladeshi and Rohingya survivors in an October Reuters Special Report provided evidence of a dramatic shift in human-trafficking tactics.

Sanya said the 259 people were currently being held at a community hall and that his team were “looking after them like relatives” but that they would soon be put back on boats.

“Who will feed them? I’m struggling day to day to feed them,” said Sanya.

“No country wants an outsider to come in to their house.”

Thailand was downgraded in June to the lowest category in the U.S. State Department’s annual ranking of the world’s worst human-trafficking centers, putting it in the same category as North Korea and the Central African Republic.

The same month, the Thai military vowed to “prevent and suppress human trafficking”, after having seized power from an elected government on May 22.

By: Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Reuters

Published on: 10 November 2014

 

Boatpeople Vanish or Convert to Being Burmese in Thailand’s Human Trafficking Miracle

KAPER: The mystery of the disappearing boatpeople and a sudden, inexplicable change in ethnicity among would-be refugees is a puzzle of the kind that has often afflicted Thailand’s Andaman coast. It happened again yesterday.

Early in the morning, 299 boatpeople were arrested by the Army’s Internal Security Operations Command, working with local police in the province of Ranong. The Rohingya among the men, women and children totalled 219. The other 80 said they were from Bangladesh, according to officials.

By yesterday evening, the number being held in custody in a community hall in the township of Kaper had fallen to 252, with the other 47 boatpeople mysteriously disappearing. Nobody knew where they went. There appeared to be no great concern over the fate of the vanished boatpeople.

An even greater puzzle surrounded the declared ethnicities of the group. Within the space of a few hours, all those people who had previously said they were Rohingya or Bangladeshi were suddenly being recorded as Burmese.

This is not a miraculous conversion. Many times, boatpeople who land on the Andaman coast, north of the holiday island of Phuket, are declared to be Burmese, even though they can’t even speak the appropriate language. This makes deportation easy. No further questions are necessary.

Phuketwan unravelled a little of the mystery yesterday during a brief visit inside the Kaper community hall, where the boatpeople who had not vanished over the course of a few hours yesterday were being processed by officials.

Large numbers of Ranong police, the Army, the Navy and officers from the Department of Human Security and Social Welfare helped in processing the boatpeople. Anti-human trafficking police from Bangkok looked on, too.

Each of the boatpeople had his fingerprints taken, then he was photographed. A group of investigators at trestle tables asked each man for details: name, age, parents, nationality. While responses to the first three questions varied, the answer provided by each translator to ”nationalty” was the same: Burmese.

Just a few hours earlier, the ethnicities of these same people had been recorded as Rohingya and Bangladeshis. None of them were Burmese.

While the processing of the boatpeople in the Kaper community hall appeared to be efficient, it was certainly speedy. The questions took just a few seconds to answer.

As a result, all of the boatpeople will be treated as illegal immigrants, not human trafficking victims. Seven men arrested with the boatpeople will face court on charges relating to illegal migration, not as accused human traffickers.

Just 30 minutes’ drive south from Kaper, in the neighboring province of Phang Nga, these boatpeople would have been handled differently. They would have been exhaustively questioned by volunteers and activists to determine whether or not they were genuine human trafficking victims.

Tomorrow, three men arrested recently with large groups of boatpeople close to the township of Takuapa will face human trafficking and abuse charges in a local court.

Volunteers and activists, led by the district chief officer, have decided it’s time to end Thailand’s farcical system so that the boatpeople are saved from abuse, rapes and death in the secret traffickers’ camps of southern Thailand.

The difference in approach between what happens in Ranong and in Phang Nga is all down to lack of a budget to deal with human trafficking victims, Phuketwan was told several times yesterday.

And so there’s the Catch 22 for human trafficking in Thailand.

Until the government acknowledges that there’s a problem, there will be no budget to deal with possible human trafficking victims. And because there are at present no human trafficking victims, there is no problem, so there’s no need for a budget.

The Muslims, Buddhist and Christian activists in Phang Nga who are now boldly defying the system represent Thailand’s chance to deal with the issue truthfully, even if it comes at a financial cost.

Thailand’s international reputation hinges on what happens in the two provinces north of Phuket over the next few days and weeks.

By Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, PhuketWan

Thai nightmare: Ordeal ends for migrants left for broke

Twenty-five migrant workers who claim they were duped out of hundreds of dollars by a Phnom Penh-based recruitment agency promising jobs in Thailand were repatriated yesterday after being arrested and detained by Thai authorities.

Sin Nang Young, commune chief of Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town – where the workers arrived yesterday – said the 25 men and women had been tricked by Best Power Co Ltd.

Best Power “ordered them to pay money to find them jobs in Thailand. But when they arrived, there were no jobs and they were arrested by Thai authorities,” she said, adding that the group had been detained for a day before being deported.

One of the workers, 27-year-old Sor Van, said the group paid $300 each on the promise of jobs in a Thai chicken factory.

“I wanted to work in Thailand and I chose the company to organise it legally,” he said.

Another worker, Sim Chan, said the 25 were arrested because the company had held onto their passports. Contact details for Best Power could not be found.

By: Sen David, The Phnom Penh Post

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