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    HRW calls on Thailand not to deport Rohingyas

    This
    picture taken on Dec 30, 2012, shows Myanmar Rohingya refugees under
    the custody of Malaysian security officials on Langkawi island,
    northern Kedah state. Officials say 73 refugees from Myanmar’s
    Rohingya minority found adrift off a Thai resort island will be
    repatriated to their homeland. –PHOTO: AFP


    Source Mizzima
    News

    Human
    Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Thai government to immediately
    halt its plan to deport 73 ethnic Rohingyas back to Burma.

     In
    a statement on Thursday, the New York-based rights group urged the
    Thai authorities to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for
    Refugees (UNHCR) unhindered access to the boatpeople and other
    migrants from Burma’s restive Rakhine State to determine whether
    they are seeking asylum and whether they qualify for refugee status.



    On
    January 1, the Thai authorities intercepted a boatload of 73 Rohingya
    migrants—reportedly including as many as 20 children, some as young
    as 3—2013, near Bon Island in Phuket province.


    “After
    providing food, water and other supplies to the passengers and
    refueling the boat, Thai authorities initially planned to push the
    boat back to sea en route to Malaysia’s Langkawi Island,” said
    the HRW statement. “When they found that the rickety, overcrowded
    boat had cracks and that many passengers were too weak to endure a
    stormy sea voyage, the authorities brought the group ashore to the
    Phuket Immigration Office. By 4 p.m. on January 2, two trucks with
    all 73 Rohingya were heading to Ranong province for deportation to
    Burma.”

    According
    to a report in The Bangkok Post, Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut said
    on Wednesday that the 73 Rohingya boatpeople were physically unable
    to continue their journey by sea to Malaysia, and that all of them
    would be sent back to Burma by land on transport provided by Thai
    immigration police.

    “The
    Thai government should scrap its inhumane policy of summarily
    deporting Rohingya, who have been brutally persecuted in Burma, and
    honor their right to seek asylum,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia
    Director. “UNHCR should be permitted to screen all Rohingya
    arriving in Thailand to identify and assist those seeking refugee
    status.”

    HRW
    said that the Thai government’s so-called “help on” policy
    fails to provide Rohingya asylum seekers with protection required
    under international law, and in some cases increases their risk. It
    said that, under this policy, the Thai navy is under orders to
    intercept Rohingya boats that come too close to the Thai coast. “Upon
    intercepting a boat, officials provide the boat with fuel, food,
    water, and other supplies on condition that the boats sail onward to
    Malaysia or Indonesia. All passengers must remain on their own boats
    during the re-supply,” the statement said.

    HRW
    said that often, if the Thai authorities find a boat to be unsafe,
    they will deport the Rohingya by land, frequently at border crossings
    such as Ranong in southern Thailand where people smugglers await
    deported Rohingya to exact exorbitant fees to transport them to
    Malaysia. “Those unable to pay the smuggling fees are forced into
    labor to pay off the fees, condemning them to situations amounting to
    human trafficking,” the statement said.

    “Thailand
    has repeatedly stated its commitment to combat human trafficking, yet
    by deporting Rohingya into the hands of people smugglers, they are
    making them vulnerable to trafficking,” Adams added.