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Boatpeople Fear ‘Certain Death’ in Burma

A Rohingya woman cries after her apprehension on Phuket
Photo by phuketwan.com
By Chutima Sidasathian
Phuket_Wan
May 16, 2013
PHUKET: A group of senior national officials has been
checking on conditions in which Rohingya boatpeople are being detained in
Thailand.
Member of Parliament Samas Nalulem, who is also a member of
the Border Affairs Commission, visited the women and children being held in a
Phuket family refuge yesterday.
It’s believed the Phuket visit is just one of several to
refuges and Immigration detention centres where about 2000 Rohingya men, women
and children are being held throughout Thailand.
Three women and 17 children are being held on Phuket at the
family centre together with a group of men in detention in cells at Phuket
Immigration in Phuket City.
Teenage boys have absconded from the Phuket family centre
and from a larger family centre in Phang Nga, the province north of Phuket,
where 72 women and children remain.
According to a source based in Surat Thani, where Rohingya
are also being held, concern among all detainees is mounting as the six-month
deadline draws closer for a decision on the status and future of the boatpeople
being held in Thailand.
Six weeks remain in the original six-months timeframe set by
the Thai Government. Officials from Burma are believed to have suggested that
Burma would be willing to take back the Rohingya.
The detainees would have preferred to have been ”helped
on” to Malaysia, which was Thailand’s policy before raids on secret border
camps and the apprehension of several boats off the Thai coast through January.
The Surat Thani source told Phuketwan today: ”Rohingya here
are in tears and horrified at the thought they might be sent back to Burma.
”They would rather take their chances in Thailand than go
back to what they believe would be certain death in Burma.”
For the first time, women and children joined Rohingya men
in fleeing to sea this October-April ”sailing season” because they had been
torched from their homes by their Buddhist neighbors in Rakhine state.
Most of the 140,000 homeless Rohingya in Rakhine state have
been herded into shanty camps for displaced persons where life has become even
harder and less promising.
Although a party from the Australian embassy is also
reported to have visited Rohingya in detention on Phuket, in Phang Nga and in
Ranong, no other options exist at present for the captive boatpeople.