Thai police investigate Rohingya trafficking deaths
|Illegal Rohingya migrants arrested in Ranong province, Thailand, January 27, 2009. Photo: EPA|
January 23, 2015
A Thai police investigation into the deaths of three Muslim Rohingya migrants being trafficked illegally through the country continued January 21 when a group of rescued people identified the cars used to transport them, according to a report in The Nation January 22.
Hua Sai police in Nakhon Si Thammarat in southern Thailand brought a small group of Rohingya to identify the cars they had been carried in. The cars are impounded at the police station.
One woman died on January 11 after being crushed in a vehicle while being transported. The provincial court has issued arrest warrants for three alleged human traffickers. She was among 98 Rohingya migrants from Myanmar crammed into five vehicles believed to have been trafficked through the country by the human trafficking ring. A further two of the migrants are reported to have subsequently died in hospital, one due to diarrhea and the other due to a blood infection, according to local media reports.
Thailand has been criticised over its efforts to crack down on the trafficking of Rohingya migrants from Myanmar who leave to look for work or flee poor security conditions in their country. Many set out from Myanmar by sea in rickety boats, heading for Thailand and Malaysia.
According to the newspaper report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is said to be coordinating with related parties to move some Rohingya refugees in Thailand on a voluntary basis to a third county, initially set as the United States. The comment was reportedly made during a UNHCR Thailand official’s visit to a shelter where this group of migrants was being held in Hua Sai district.
However, the UNHCR has shown that it prefers to maintain a low-key approach that does not specify the country to which vulnerable individuals might be sent.
Ms Vivian Tan, UNHCR regional press officer in Bangkok, commenting in response to the media story, said the UNHCR's support for the Rohingya in southern Thailand remains unchanged.
“For several years now, we have been providing relief supplies to supplement government assistance to these arrivals. As you know, these Rohingya are being hosted in shelters managed by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, and immigration detention centres. The immigration detention centres are not designed to accommodate such large numbers of people for long periods of time,” she told Mizzima January 23.
“UNHCR has been advocating with the authorities to provide alternatives to detention for these individuals, many of whom are already traumatized by their flight from their country and their difficult journey to reach Thailand. We are also working with the authorities to find solutions, including exploring resettlement to third countries for the most vulnerable individuals. Again, these efforts have been ongoing for several years; they are not a new development,” Ms Tan said.