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No change in Rohingya policy as new top Navy brass takes charge in Phuket

Vice Admiral Sayan Prasongsamrej, Commander of the Royal Thai Navy’s Third Area Command, has vowed to provide aid to refugees at sea. Photo: Chutharat Plerin

By Chutharat Plerin
November 21, 2014

PHUKET: Though their has been a change of top brass at the Royal Thai Navy’s Third Area Command, based in Phuket, the official policy for managing the overwhelming flow of refugees and illegals escaping violence in their home countries remains unchanged.

The recently transferred Vice Admiral Sayan Prasongsamrej, now Commander of the Royal Thai Navy’s Third Area Command, told the Phuket Gazette in an exclusive interview yesterday that the exodus of refugees, including Rohingya – and their subsequent expulsion from Thailand – is a vicious cycle that will continue unless a change is made in Myanmar.

“I am well aware that this issue goes around in a circle. We are doing the best we can at our end. We can do only what is permitted under Thai law, the rest is beyond my authority,” said V/Adm Sayan.

“Thai government leaders are discussing with the Myanmar government and the United Nations ways to help the refugees and treat them like other Myanmar nationals. 

“However, Thailand cannot solve this problem. International leaders must gather and find a solution, otherwise this will continue on endlessly.” 

V/Adm Sayan vowed to continue in the footsteps of his predecessor by assisting refugees to the best of his abilities, even if they are arrested for illegally landing on Thai soil.

“If naval officers spot refugee boats at sea, we will assist them the best we can by helping them continue their journey and by providing food, oil and other necessary provisions,” he said.

“However, if they land on our shores we have no choice but to arrest them, as they are breaking the law by illegally entering the country.

“We must also take good care of those that are arrested. Medical services will be provided as they have made a very long sea journey with little food. We will provide them with food while they await deportation.”

V/Adm Sayan also assured the Gazette that he would pursue cases against anyone suspected of smuggling refugees from Myanmar into Thailand.

“Human trafficking is a huge problem that affects Thailand’s reputation. We do not take this issue lightly. If we have evidence against anyone – civilian or official – we will not let them get away,” he said. 

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