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Thai Police Scour South for 11 Missing Rohingya Migrants

Undocumented Rohingya Muslim immigrants gather at the Immigration Detention Center during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand on July 10, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

January 10, 2016

BANGKOK – Thai security forces are now searching for three Rohingya women and eight children who escaped from a Thai immigration detention center in southern Thailand’s Phang Nga province last night, police said Saturday.

“We are now examining security camera footage for the area to determine where they have fled,” said Bandhit Hattapithiphan, a police inspector in the coastal town of Khao Lak, about 611 kilometers southwest of Bangkok, according to local newspaper The Nation.

This is the second time in the past two years that detained Rohingya migrants have escaped from the Phang Nga immigration detention center, with the last incident in December 2014 when 10 inmates climbed through the bathroom ceiling using makeshift ropes made from sheets.

Other centers have faced similar incidents with nearly 90 Rohingya asylum seekers absconding from a center in Sadao, near the Malaysian border, in August 2013 after spending eight months in a crowded cell together, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

An estimated 1.3 million ethnic Rohingyas reside in Myanmar, a country that considers the Muslim minority as Bengalis and denies them citizenship and other human rights and treats them as illegal immigrants.

The Bangladeshi government also refuses to recognize the Rohingyas as Bengali, and denies the 300,000-strong Rohingya community living on Bangladeshi soil rights to work, and restricts their freedom of movement to enclosed refugee camps where they are forced to depend on international aid.

Intercommunal strife in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State since June 2012 has forced tens of thousands of Rohingyas to undertake dangerous sea journeys to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia to escape persecution and poverty in Myanmar.

Many fall prey to human traffickers while others end up arrested and locked up in Thai immigration detention centers until they are either repatriated or transferred to a third country as refugees.

Last year, a group of 94 Rohingyas apprehended at sea by the Thai Navy protested against their resettlement to the United States, instead requesting to go to Malaysia, where many say they have relatives.

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Rohingya Exodus