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    700 Rohingya in Thailand to be deported to Myanmar

    Rohingya
    minority children look out through a window of a bus after they were
    rescued by Thai authorities in Songkhla province, southern Thailand
    on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Nearly 700 boat people from Myanmar’s
    beleaguered Rohingya minority were rescued from alleged human
    traffickers in two separate raids near Thailand’s southern border,
    Thai authorities said Friday. (AP Photo/Sumeth Panpetch)


    Thai
    authorities said Friday that about 700 people from Myanmar’s
    beleaguered Rohingya minority who had entered Thailand illegally were
    found in two separate raids in the country’s south and that they
    would be sent back to Myanmar.
    Police
    and government officials found 307 Rohingya asylum seekers during a
    search Friday at a warehouse in Sadao district in Songkhla province,
    police Maj. Col. Thanusin Duangkaewngam said. On Thursday, nearly 400
    Rohingya were found in a raid in the same district.

    “The
    Rohingya said they had voluntarily entered Thailand to travel to a
    third country,” Thanusin said of Friday’s raid. “Police
    will have to expand the investigation to the group of people who
    brought these Rohingya people in, as it is illegal entry.”
    Sectarian
    violence in Myanmar involving the Rohingya has left hundreds dead and
    many more homeless in recent months.
    Thanusin
    said the refugees found in Friday’s raid, including 230 men, 31
    women, 22 boys and 24 girls, would be repatriated to Myanmar, also
    known as Burma.
    Human
    rights activists have called for the Thai government not to deport
    the Rohingya back to Myanmar, where they face widespread
    discrimination.
    On
    Thursday, about 50 security officers from a joint military-police
    task force raided crowded makeshift shelters on a rubber plantation
    in Sadao district and rescued 397 Rohingya.
    There
    were children and women in the group who appeared to be exhausted and
    were crammed under the metal-sheet roof, said army Col. Jaran
    Iamthanon, who led the raid. He said some of the Rohingya attempted
    to flee by running into the mountains.

    Police
    arrested eight suspects in Thursday’s raid who were believed to be
    traffickers and confiscated a pistol, a sword, 10 mobile phones
    and a laptop, police Col. Kriskorn Pleetanyawong said. The men _ six
    from Myanmar, including two Rohingya, and two Thais _ face charges of
    bringing in and sheltering illegal immigrants, as well as illegal
    possession of a gun, he said.
    Kriskorn
    said investigators would question two other suspects, one of whom is
    a local politician who owned the land on which the migrants were
    found.

    An
    initial investigation into Thursday’s raid showed the refugees had
    been held at the location for nearly three months while waiting to be
    sent to Malaysia to work as fishermen. Authorities said the
    trafficking network sold
    them for 60,000 to 70,000 baht ($1,975 to $2,304) per person.
    It
    was unclear whether human traffickers were involved with the group in
    Friday’s raid, and police said they were investigating.
    The
    migrants in both raids were being held at police stations across
    Songkhla province awaiting repatriation to Myanmar.
    The
    United Nations estimates the Rohingya population in Myanmar at
    800,000, but the government does not recognize them as one of the
    country’s 135 ethnic groups, and most are denied citizenship.
    Rohingya
    speak a Bengali dialect and resemble Muslim Bangladeshis, with darker
    skin than most people in Myanmar. They are widely regarded as illegal
    immigrants from Bangladesh and are heavily discriminated against, but
    Bangladesh also refuses to accept them as citizens.
    Last
    week, Thai authorities deported back to Myanmar 73 Rohingya who were
    found adrift on a boat off a Thai resort island.
    Source Azstarnet: