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Sea Baby Among Rohingya Now Fleeing Indefinite Detention in Thailand

On the run: Baby born at sea Muhamad Hamid at a shelter in February Photo by phuketwan.com/file
By Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison 
September 17, 2013
PHUKET: A boy born on a boat off the coast of Thailand was among the Rohingya who fled a family refuge centre north of Phuket early today.
The group of eight women and children were in the province of Surat Thani tonight, having given themselves over to human traffickers rather than endure any longer a frustrating nine-month wait in Thailand. 
The Phang Nga shelter north of Phuket, which once held more than 70 women and children, is now inhabited by a dwindling 29 Rohingya.
A 12-year-old boy, who fled Burma alone in December with no relatives awaiting him in Malaysia, cried while on the telephone to friends, telling them about his escape early today. 
Unless he is able to find the 40,000 baht the traffickers will ask for his safe passage to Malaysia, he is likely to be sold onto a trawler or to a fish factory.
The previous night, another 10 Rohingya escaped from a different Thai family shelter in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. 
Phuketwan has been told by usually reliable sources that human trafficking continues in Thailand in the same unrestricted way that it has flourished since the first Rohingya fled persecution in Burma many years ago. 
Although there are about 1800 Rohingya still being held in government Immigration centres, police stations and family shelters, the sources say nearly twice that number are in traffickers’ camps on the mainland or on islands along the Andaman Sea coast. 
The scores of Rohingya who emerged from the jungle in the southern province of Songkhla on Thursday were part of a group waiting to be traded across the border to Malaysia, Phuketwan has been told.
In coming months, as the safe ”sailing season” gets underway in earnest, more Rohingya are expected to flee Burma in unprecedented numbers, with many of them likely to pass through Thailand on their path to Malaysia. 
Although several traffickers’ camps were raided in January with Rohingya men, women and children taken into custody in Thailand, other camps and other victims have since taken their place. 
It’s perilous to sail in the monsoon season, yet many Rohingya have done so this year. Even more are expected to take to the sea between October and April, when it’s safer. 
Whatever point Thailand hoped to prove by ”rescuing” from camps and boats hundreds of Rohingya who would have been in Malaysia within days has been lost. Nine months on, no practical Rohingya policy has been forthcoming. 
The mass exodus from Burma is about to resume. And the level of desperation remains so high that more babies may be born at sea. 
Now nine months old, Muhamad Hamid came into the world on a boat on December 24. Because his people are stateless and unwanted, there is no official record of his birth.
His mother, NuRu, 34, went into labor on the eleventh day of her voyage, so keen to flee ethnic cleansing in Burma that the possibility of giving birth at sea did not stop her.
Now on the run, she knows that Thailand offers no more hope than Burma. All she can do is hope that perhaps Malaysia will be different, if she can get there.