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Rohingya Beaten and Trafficked by Thai Navy off Phuket, Says ABC Report

The boat people being interviewed in a police
jail in January Photo by phuketwan.com
By Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian
 Phuket_Wan
June 13, 2013
PHUKET: Fresh allegations are being made that
the Royal Thai Navy intercepted Rohingya boatpeople off Phuket, brutally beat
them and sold them on to human traffickers.
The alarming claims are being made in reports
tonight on the national ABC radio, television and online network across
Australia.
Bangkok-based reporter Zoe Daniel says she
talked in Malaysia to Rohingya men who showed her scars they said were
inflicted by Thai Navy sailors and traffickers in Thailand.
Asked about the allegations tonight, Vice
Admiral Tharathorn Khajitsuwan, the Commander of Thai Navy Three, which patrols
the Andaman Sea coast, said he could not talk about Rohingya issues. He rang
off.
Strongest of the fresh allegations comes from
a man named Zafar Ahmad who told the ABC that the Thai navy had played a role
in ”pushing back” a vessel earlier this year that ended up in Sri Lanka.
Ninety-six people died of starvation or
thirst before the boat reached Sri Lanka, survivors said.
About 200 people are believed to have died in
Thai military ”pushbacks” in 2008-2009. The human rights abuse was first
exposed by Phuketwan reporters working with the South China Morning Post
newspaper. Soon after, the Thai Navy adopted a ”help on” policy instead.
Would-be refugees intercepted at sea were
given food, water and aid to keep travelling to a third country to prevent them
landing in Thailand.
This year, with women and children joining
their menfolk in fleeing ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state in Burma for the
first time, allegations of the Thai Navy being connected to human traffickers
have become more widespread.
Tonight’s ABC report quoted Zafar Ahmad as
saying: ”The navy arrested us and took us to an island, they took us into a
forest, then they took our clothes so we had only underwear . . . They beat us
and asked us why we came to this country.”
Within days, two Rohingya boats had their
engines removed, more than 200 passengers were then put back on board, towed
out to sea and abandoned.
One seemingly made it all the way to Sri
Lanka, the ABC report said. It made headlines when it landed because 96 people
died on the way due to lack of food and water.
”By the time Mr Ahmad’s boat made it back to
Thai shores, towed in by a fisherman, 12 people had died. Those left were then
sold by villagers,” the ABC reported.