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Rohingya Prisoners Thinned Out: Thai Authorities React to ‘Escape’ Protest

Rohingya detainees file out of Sadao Immigration
this week Photo by refugee aid group

By Phuketwan 

August 2, 2013

PHUKET: A total of 170 Rohingya have been moved from an overcrowded Immigration centre in Thailand’s south where at least five detainees have died in custody.

The men were transported out in the aftermath of a protest over the lack of medical assistance for a sick young inmate, according to an aid agency spokesperson.

The disruption came at Sadao Immigration centre in Songkhla province on Tuesday night, when caged Rohingya bent the bars on their second-floor enclosure, allowing 10 men to jump to the ground.

News outlets in Thailand and at least one government agency reported the incident as a ”riot” and an ”escape attempt.” According to sources who spoke to Phuketwan this week, there was never a riot and no escape attempt.

The 10 protesters objected to the lack of medical treatment for a sick young man. They were always confined within the walls of the detention centre and at no stage tried to flee. 

The following day, authorities acted to reduce the number of Rohingya who have been overcrowded in the facility since January, with a series of deaths being attributed by at least one doctor to the cramped conditions.

In reducing the number of men at Sadao Immigration from 296 to 126, the authorities appeared to be finally acknowledging that overcrowding may have been a factor in the deaths. 

The men have been redistributed as follows: Had Yai Police Station (30) Klong Nge Police Station (20) Sadao Police Station (30) Pedang Besar Police Station (20) Pedang Besar Immigration (60) Border Police tor chor dor office (10).

Other Rohingya are being held in confined spaces at Immigration centres around Thailand, including on Phuket and in the neighboring province of Phang Nga. 

Amnesty International says that seven Rohingya have died in custody since the would-be refugees were rounded up from traffickers’ camps and apprehended on passing boats, mostly in January. 

A usually reliable source has provided Phuketwan with the names of eight men who are said to have died while in detention in Thailand up to July 11. 

They are: Mohammed Hussen, 30, Mohammed Emran (or Muhammad Wearmaeran) 17, Shah Korim, 25, Roffique, 20, Mohammed Rafique, 18, Mohamad Salim, 18, Samsul Alam and Abdur Rashid.

In April, Thailand’s top Immigration officer, Major General Panu Kerdlabpon, said that the 2026 Rohingya then in captivity in Thailand were having to cope with mental health issues. 

Depression and despondency continue to weigh heavily on the Rohingya. The men, women and children had hoped to pass through Thailand in a matter of days. 

They have instead been held for six months, with no end in sight. 

Numbers have dwindled as Rohingya women and children, confined in relative comfort in Thai government family centres, escaped and fled to Malaysia, with the help of traffickers.

Thailand’s six-month self-imposed deadline for a decision on the status and future of the Rohingya expired on July 26.