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    Will Thailand Really Send These Children Back to Burma? Photo Special

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     Phuket_Wan:
    April 27, 2013

    PHUKET: The boy
    born at sea is thriving, just like all the Rohingya children who have spent
    three months in care at a refuge centre north of Phuket.
    They run, they
    jump, they play football and hang from trees, like very active pieces of fruit.
    When these children
    first came ashore from their rickety Rohingya boats, they were motionless. They
    did not move much. Their faces were rigid and unsmiling.
    This is probably
    natural when your life is endangered on a perilous voyage, fleeing Burma, the
    homeland where they are not considered citizens and where violence, rape and
    brutality are common these days.
    The difference in
    the behavior of the children now is remarkable, as our photographs show.
    How long will their
    happiness last? It’s now three months since Thai officials ruled that the
    Rohingya ”rescued” from boats and from human trafficking camps would be
    assessed and their futures decided over a period of six months. 


    Nuru, the Rohingya
    babe born stateless on a boat off Thailand Photo by phuketwan.com
    Halfway through, it
    appears as though little progress has been made. Thai officials are reportedly
    seeking the help of Burmese officials to determine the status of the 2000
    Rohingya being held in detention in Thailand.
    There is talk of
    them being sent back to Burma.
    This outcome is
    unlikely because the Rohingya are not recognised as citizens of Burma, and it’s
    the declared policy of the government to have them leave Burma for other
    countries.
    To have them sent
    back would fly in the face of logic and defy every definition of a refugee.
    These people were
    driven from Burma in fear of their lives. Some of them have told Phuketwan that
    they were systematically raped by Burmese soldiers.
    Other saw relatives
    killed. Most have been burned from their homes. Many fled to sea because they
    feared they faced certain death if they stayed.
    And Thailand’s
    answer is to send them back? We find that prospect to be poorly conceived and
    outrageous when human rights in the 21st century are considered.
    We cannot imagine
    the fear and dread that would replace the smiles of the 72 women and children
    at the refuge centre in Phang Nga, north of Phuket.
    The Rohingya
    menfolk, so we are told, are faring differently. They have no reason to smile.
    Conditions in the Immigration centres where they are being held vary.
    We are told that
    the worst conditions of all are faced by the Rohingya men who are being held at
    Ranong Immigration, on the border with Burma, north of Phuket and Phang Nga.
    There, we are told,
    about 100 remain captive in a room without sunlight and with little space to
    move. The Ranong Immigration centre is intended for the speedy repatriation of
    people to Burma, not for long-term detention.
    In 2009, a group of
    Rohingya were held in similar conditions. Two teenagers died in custody.
    When the survivors
    were eventually transferred to a more acceptable centre in Bangkok, some of
    them emerged bent double and barely able to walk.
    Is this still
    acceptable in Thailand in 2013? We hope not.
    A cavalcade of VIPs
    arrived at Ranong Immigration centre today, escorted by police with flashing
    lights, while we were outside.
    We suspect it had
    nothing to do with the plight of the people whose treatment inside is, so we
    are told, a long way from that accorded to VIPs, or even everyday people.
    However, like the
    stateless and unwanted Rohingya, we live in hope. Perhaps tomorrow will bring
    reason, humanity, and a solution.