'We heard that they were there, and we just wanted to give them some food.' According to Thai counter-insurgency officer Colonel Manat Khongpan, that was the extent of the army's involvement or responsibility for the treatment of Rohingya boatpeople. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Colonel Manat dismissed reports the army was detaining Rohingya and forcing them back out to sea. He repeatedly insisted that villagers had 'taken it upon themselves' to help Rohingya who had washed ashore in the region to get food and water and fix their boats. They also helped move them to isolated beaches before finding them seats on fishing boats that could take them to their final destinations, Malaysia and Indonesia. His comments were made in an interview on Tuesday night, the day before a fellow army colonel said the army had been funding the project. Immigration police were responsible for handling them on behalf of the Thai government, including detaining them, Colonel Manat added. 'When the waves started to calm down in November, many Rohingya came here and started to spread around the islands of Ranong ... it made a lot of trouble for the local people, it scared them,' he said. 'Local people found them land, and gave them water and food. Then the people helped them find fishing boats that could take them away.' Colonel Manat's involvement in the programme, which has resulted in the death of hundreds of Rohingya, was highlighted on Monday when the Post published pictures of him during an army operation on Koh Sai Daeng. Our investigations had earlier established that island as the site of a secret detention camp, from which the Rohingya were towed out to sea. Colonel Manat confirmed that he had been to Koh Sai Daeng to see the Rohingya in late November, but said this was only after villagers told him they had taken the boatpeople there. 'We heard that they were there and we wanted to give them food,' he said. 'We gave them water and wanted to see that they were OK. I even paid from my own pocket for food and water. 'It is the natural character of Thai people to help them ... I guarantee on my life that they have not been badly treated in Thailand. We would never do anything to harm them.' Colonel Manat said he had heard reports that many had subsequently died. 'I felt sad like any normal human being ... I did whatever good we could for them.' He added that Myanmar was the source of the problem. 'They are treated very badly there and that is where the problem must be solved.' Colonel Manat was speaking by mobile phone as he travelled to Bangkok to discuss the Rohingya situation with Foreign Ministry and parliamentary officials. He testified to parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, offering a version of events similar to the one in this interview.