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    Thai Army Raids Traffickers’ Border Camp, 366 Rohingya Held Captive

    Children being treated today inside the people smugglers’ campPhoto by Metee Mooktaree

    By Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison
    Thursday, January 10, 2013
    PHUKET: Thai authorities raided a secret transit camp for Rohingya on
    the border with Malaysia today, apprehending 366 men, women and children and
    seven alleged people traffickers. 

    Sixty-two of those being held were aged under 15
    with three babies less than a year old, and 11 women, local police said. 

    The raid is the latest development as thousands of Rohingya flee ethnic
    cleansing in Burma after being burned from their houses in what’s called
    ”community violence.”

    It came as an undercover Rohingya working with
    the Army bought two boatpeople for 95,000 baht in a ”sting” in Padangnezar
    district, in the Thai province of Songkgla.

    The captive Rohingya were being held in a remote
    hillside border camp near Malaysia and are still there today after last night’s
    raid, with Thai soldiers recording their names.

    Public Health medical teams were also examining
    the captives, said Lieutenant Colonel Katika Jidbanjong of Padangbezar Police

    One source told Phuketwan that
    the camp was just one of several on the border, and that the other camps
    contained larger numbers of people.

    The ”sting” operation was led by Kalam, who
    has a single name and is a member of the Rohingya National Organisation of

    ”We began negotiating at the camp to buy two
    men for 95,000 baht about 2pm,” he said. ”We had to wait until 8pm, when the
    brokers arrived. As soon as we met with them, the soldiers moved in.”

    There were many checkpoints surrounding the
    hillside camp. Three brokers and four camp security guards were being held,
    Kalam said.

    The issue of the Rohingya and Burma’s continuing
    desire to expel them is now causing serious problems for Burma’s Asean
    neighbors, Thailand, Malaysia and, to a lesser extent, Singapore.

    A group of 73 men, women and children,
    apprehended on a boat off Phuket on New Year’s Day, were swiftly trucked north
    to the port of Ranong, on the border with Burma, where they were placed on
    another boat heading south. 

    Colonel Manat Kongpan, who heads Thailand’s
    Internal Security Operations Command, Fourth Region, said the families had
    immediately been placed on another vessel and ”helped on.”

    At the same time, Human Rights Watch was making
    a plea for Thailand’s Government to keep the Phuket boatpeople in Thailand to
    resolve their future.

    It’s not known whether today’s raid was
    connected to the apprehension of the Phuket boatpeople, which received
    extensive media coverage, along with the arrival days earlier on the Malaysian
    holiday island of Langkawi of more than 500 Rohingya.

    Colonel Manat said today that other boatloads of
    Rohingya had been apprehended and ”helped on” since the Phuket families were
    sent south by sea on January 2. 

    He said that women and children were now
    frequently present on boats where once only men and teenage boys ventured

    At least 10,000 Rohingya have been recorded as
    fleeing Bangladesh or northern Burma by boat in the first three months of the
    safe ”sailing season” with many thousands more expected to flee in the next
    three months. 

    The issue is expected to be high on the priority
    list of Le Luong Minh of Vietnam who has just taken over as Asean Secretary
    General from Dr Surin Pitsuwan.

    Four years ago yesterday, Phuketwan journalists
    working with the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong broke the news
    of secret ”pushbacks” of Rohingya from Thailand. 

    Several hundred men and boys drowned before
    Thailand ended that policy and replaced it with the ”help on” process. 

    Boatpeople intercepted off the Thai coast are
    now given food, provisions and fuel but told they must not land in Thailand.
    Malaysia appears to be the preferred destination.

     Source Phuket_Wan: