January 31, 2013
A ROHINGYA refugee gave birth to a baby boy on an overcrowded boat carrying around 110 people which arrived in Thailand from unrest-hit western Burma, an official said.
The boat was sinking when it landed at Surin island off Thailand’s southwestern province of Phang Nga near the border with Burma on Wednesday, a local government official told AFP.
“Among them there was a new-born baby, aged around a week up to 10 days old,” Manit Pienthong said.
“They (the refugees) told us a baby was born in a boat. We sent the baby to hospital for a check-up – the baby is fine.”
The baby, who weighed three kilograms (6.6 lbs), was returned to his mother and both were taken into the care of immigration authorities, Mr Manit said, although it was unclear what will happen to them next.
Thousands of Rohingya – members of a stateless Muslim minority described by the UN as one of the world’s most perecuted groups – have fled Burma in recent months with many making the perilous sea journey south.
Non-governmental organisations have voiced concern that an increasing number of women and children are among them.
Nearly 800 Rohingya have arrived on nine separate boats this month in Phang Nga alone, Mr Manit added.
Thailand’s navy blocked more than 200 Rohingya boat people from entering the kingdom on Wednesday as part of a new crackdown on the refugees, under which they will be given food and water but barred from landing if their boat is seaworthy.
The tougher stance came after Thai authorities said they were investigating allegations that army officials were involved in the trafficking of Rohingya.
An explosion of tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Burma’s western state of Rakhine since June 2012 has triggered an exodus of Rohingya.
More than 1300 members of the minority group have been detained by Thailand after landing on its shores in recent months.
Officials have said those already in Thailand will be allowed to stay for six months in detention while the government works with the UN refugee agency to find third countries willing to accept them.