THAILAND

New wave of Rohingya migrants arrive in Thailand

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 4:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 4:15pm

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More than 130 Rohingya migrants have landed on Thai soil in less than 24 hours, a local official said on Thursday, as the kingdom grapples with a flurry of arrivals from the Myanmar minority group.

Some 88 Rohingya came ashore at Phra Thong island in the south of the country on Wednesday in full view of television cameras, according to Kuraburi district chief for Manit Pienthong.

Another 48 landed on the Andaman sea island on Thursday morning claiming they were Rohingya, Manit said, adding they were sent to immigration officials in the provincial capital of Phangnga to start the process of returning them to Myanmar.

Over the last week hundreds of Myanmar migrants have been arrested in police sweeps of remote areas in rubber plantations near the border with Malaysia, leading the UNHCR to try to confirm whether any of them plan to seek asylum.

The UN’s refugee agency said on Wednesday it had received permission from Thailand to visit about 850 people, many thought to be Rohingya, held after raids on camps in the Thai south.

Thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim minority group not recognised as citizens in Myanmar, have fled communal unrest in the country’s western Rakhine state, heading to Thailand and other countries.

Many take to makeshift boats and drift south to the Thai coast.

Rights groups have criticised Thailand for failing to help Rohingya who reach its territory, instead pushing them back to Myanmar or into neighbouring countries including Malaysia, which offers sanctuary to the minority group.