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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.