Current News

    Thailand arrests over 150 Rohingya

    BANGKOK/LAIZA,
    Myanmar: Thailand arrested and pledged to deport more than 150
    Myanmar Rohingya migrants discovered in a hidden camp near the
    country’s southern border with Malaysia, police said yesterday.


    The
    71 men and 85 women and
    children were found on a rubber plantation in Songkhla Province,
    local police colonel Krisakorn Pleetanyawong said, four days after
    some 400 Rohingya were discovered in another raid in the province.



    “They will be treated under the
    law as illegal immigrants and will be deported,” he told AFP,
    adding that a Thai man had also been arrested on suspicion of
    violating immigration law.


    Thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim
    minority group not recognized as citizens in Myanmar, have fled
    communal unrest in the country’s western Rakhine state, heading to
    Thailand and other countries.

    Rights groups decry Thailand for
    failing to help Rohingya migrants who reach its territory, instead
    pushing them back to Myanmar or into neighboring countries including
    Malaysia, which offers sanctuary to the minority group.

    Human Rights Watch has called on Thai
    authorities to allow the United Nations’ refugee agency access to the
    Rohingya before taking action to deport them.

    HRW Thailand researcher Sunai Phasuk
    said women and children were increasingly among boatloads of Rohingya
    fleeing Myanmar.

    “It appears that the families are
    being uprooted in their homeland and they have to seek somewhere safe
    to stay,” he told AFP.

    The UN has urged Myanmar’s neighbors to
    open their borders to people escaping a wave of communal violence in
    Rakhine.

    Clashes between Buddhists and Muslims
    have left at least 180 people dead in the state since June, and
    displaced more than 110,000 others, mostly Rohingya.

    Myanmar views the roughly 800,000
    Rohingya in Rakhine as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them
    citizenship.

    Although tensions have eased since a
    fresh outbreak of killings in October, concerns have grown about the
    fate of asylum-seekers setting sail in overcrowded boats.

    Rebels say 3 dead in Myanmar strike

    Meanwhile, Kachin rebels in Myanmar
    said three civilians were killed and six wounded yesterday in the
    first government attack on their stronghold, as fighting escalated in
    the country’s last active civil war.

    Three shells landed in the centre of
    Laiza, a town on the northern border with China that serves as
    headquarters for the Kachin Independence Army, said Colonel James Lum
    Dau, spokesman for the KIA’s political wing.

    “This is the first time they have
    directly bombarded Laiza,” he told AFP.

    The KIA said the victims of the early
    morning strike included a 15-year-old boy and a 76-year-old man.

    A video contributor to AFP saw three
    bodies after the shells landed near one of the town’s main roads, in
    a densely-populated area of wooden and concrete homes and small shops
    with no obvious military targets.

    People were going about their daily
    chores when the attack happened, causing panic and leaving residents
    fearful and weeping, he said, adding that two small children were
    among the wounded.

    The shelling came after the US and UN
    condemned the army’s use of air strikes in an upsurge of fighting
    since December that has raised questions over the government’s
    commitment to reform after a transition from military rule.

    Myanmar presidential spokesman Ye Htut
    told AFP that he had received no information about the attack and
    said the army did not “intentionally” target civilians.

    Around 20,000 residents and 15,000
    displaced people are thought to be in Laiza, he said, adding that
    there was “nowhere to go” except to China, which in August
    pushed several thousand refugees back into Myanmar.

    Tens
    of thousands of people have been displaced in Kachin state since
    June 2011 when
    a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the KIA broke down.
    The total number of casualties is unknown.

    Matthew Smith of Human Rights Watch
    said there was concern that further fighting could cause “a
    large outflow of refugees,” but that authorities in China’s
    Yunnan province could attempt to block them.

    “There has been some indication
    that they are planning to do the right thing and provide temporary
    protection, but until we see some action on the ground, that remains
    a concern. It is potentially tens of thousands of asylum seekers,”
    he said.

    An increase in fighting has cast doubt
    over a peace process seen as key to the country’s emergence from
    decades of junta rule.

    Myanmar has struck tentative ceasefires
    with most of the other major ethnic rebel groups, but several rounds
    of talks with the Kachin have shown little tangible progress.

    President Thein Sein defended the
    army’s response to the Kachin rebellion in comments reported in state
    media on Friday, saying the army had done everything possible “to
    make positive contributions to the peace process.”

    Some experts have however raised
    questions over the level of control Thein Sein, a former general,
    exerts over army units in Kachin after an order to end military
    offensives in December 2011 was apparently ignored.

    He since said that the military only
    acted in self defence.

    The army and the rebels have traded
    claims over a helicopter crash last week which killed three army
    personnel. State media put the incident down to engine failure,
    rebutting KIA claims to have shot it down.