Thai army detains Rohingya boatpeople
A boatload of Rohingya are in the custody of the Thai army after being apprehended north of Phuket.
Local authorities confirmed that 54 would-be refugees were in the vessel intercepted yesterday near Ra island, close to the fishing port of Kuraburi in Phang Nga province.
A group of 92 boatpeople, apprehended nearby on November 24, have been trucked north to the Thailand-Myanmar border. Their fate was unclear. Yesterday, the 54 Rohingya were being held in an undisclosed location.
Local authorities said the Army's Internal Security Operations Command was involved in the operation.
Thailand's policy towards the Rohingya boatpeople has again become covert and of increasing concern to United Nations organisations and international aid groups.
In January 2009, the South China Morning Post exposed the Thai army's policy of detaining Rohingya who land on Thai shores and towing them back out to sea. Hundreds of refugees are believed to have died as a result of the policy. After that, the detention of unwanted arrivals by sea on Thailand's coast reverted to immigration officials.
Human Rights Watch has called on the Thai government to disclose the Rohingya's whereabouts and explain the army's role.
In recent weeks, more boatloads of Rohingya were believed to have sailed from northern Myanmar or Bangladesh, where they remain deprived of citizenship and controlled by repressive measures.
The US was previously one of the Rohingya's strongest public and private advocates. However, official calls for a change in attitude towards them in Myanmar and Thailand have not been made for some time.
Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said Thailand's 'apparently discriminatory' policy in dealing with the Rohingya gave comfort to Myanmar's government.