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First Rohingya arrive in southern Thailand by boat before sailing season

Thousands of Rohingya refugees
from Myanmar are expected in Thailand in the coming months. (Photo: AFP)
By Australia News Network
September 11, 2013
A boat with more than 200 Rohingya men onboard has been found at a beach
in southern Thailand, after fleeing ongoing and escalating violence at home.
The Phuketwan Tourism News reports that the men were found on a beach in
Satun province, with thousands more expected to follow in coming months.
The boat has arrived well ahead of what is considered as the safe
sailing season, which is only due to start in late October.
Three other boats are reported to have set off from Myanmar’s troubled
Rakhine state but their locations are unknown.
Local police have been holding the Rohingya while waiting for the Thai
army to step in.
Desperate situation
It is unclear what will happen to the men as Thailand’s immigration
centres and prisons are already full with other Rohingya who have been arrested
in the last 8 months.
But with the sailing season imminent, it is expected Thai authorities
will continue to be confronted by more boats as conditions at home worsen.
Late last year, violence broke out between Buddhists and the Rohingya, a
Muslim minority, in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
The fighting displaced 140,000 people, according to the United Nations.
It is estimated at least 35,000 Rohingya men, women and children fled
the country by boat last season and some estimate that number could triple this
year.
Thailand says it protects all Rohingya in custody, but there are reports
8 prisoners have died in prison, while many have become victims of human
trafficking.
The Thai government now says it will take up to a year, compared to the
6-month deadline it initially set, to decide on what to do with the Rohingya
being held in the country.
The decision is favoured by hardliners, who say it would send a strong
message to other Rohingya that they cannot make Thailand their home.