Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Mystery of Flow of Thousands of Rohingya Through Thailand Deepens as Families Flee Shelter

Source Phuketwan, 7 Jan

Rohingya among the group that fled a family shelter north of Phuket
Photo by
PHUKET: Thirteen women and children, among the latest Rohingya arrivals, have quickly vanished from a family shelter north of Phuket with serious questions now being asked about the human trafficking of thousands of people through Thailand.

The escapers - believed to have fled the family shelter in Khao Lak with the help of people traffickers - include a boy aged two who was scheduled to have an operation to relieve a large genital hernia at a local hospital tomorrow.

The women and children were from a boatload of 139 Rohingya apprehended in a forest in Phang Nga province on Christmas Day. The whereabouts of the scores of men and teenage boys from the vessel is not known.

Two more boatloads of 196 and 204 Rohingya - apparently with some Bangladeshis among them - arrived in Thailand on January 1, according to passengers spoken to by Thai media outlets.

Some of those illegal arrivals were subsequently involved in a horrific pickup crash last week that left administrating doctors at a Thai hospital asking whose responsibility it is to care for several critically injured Rohingya for the rest of their lives.

The crash was thoroughly reported on Thailand's popular Channel 3 last night, with doctors noting that one person was killed in the crash, four others were left in comas and four more remain critically injured.

It's thought that the pickup was carrying 18 men and boys to one of several secret traffickers' camps in the jungles of southern Thailand, where thousands of Rohingya, escaping persecution in Burma, are delivered into the hands of sometimes-brutal people traffickers.

The survivors who escaped the pickup crash unscathed and the Thai drivers are believed to have been carried away from the scene of the crash in a second vastly overloaded pickup.

The questions raised by Dr Watdhanachai Kulwiwat and Dr Kitpanu Worgyongsin at Had Yai Hospital about where the Rohingya came from and who cares for them were rippling further afield today.

Local police said the seriously injured Rohingya would be charged with being illegal immigrants and the pickup driver will also be charged, if he is ever apprehended.

How thousands of boatpeople manage to travel south from Burma at sea, be transferred to land in Thailand then hidden for days or weeks in the jungles of southern Thailand without being detected by the Royal Thai Navy, Marine Police, local police the Army or other authorities in uniform remains a complete mystery.

Fifteen-year-old Abu Fayap, speaking while on life support after being transferred with other Rohingya to Had Yai Hospital, told Channel 3 that along with the other seriously injured men he had already paid 50,000 baht to traffickers to be smuggled to Malaysia from Arakan state in Burma through Thailand.

The boy's version of how he was transferred at sea from a small boat in Burma to a much larger boat, then to the boat holding 196 somewhere off the coast of Thailand, tended to confirm that the smuggling of the Rohingya along Thailand's coast is now a large multi-million dollar industry.

Phuketwan reporters have been told that drug smugglers along Thailand's Andaman coast have switched to human traffickingbecause the trade in human flesh is more lucrative and less dangerous.

Nobody can remember the last time any human trafficker was apprehended at sea off Thailand.

Since the Royal Thai Navy sued Phuketwan for criminal defamation under the Computer Crimes Act in December, Channel 3 and Thailand's mainstream media have begun asking more questions about the growing exodus of thousands of Rohingya from Burma, how these people travel through Thailand and who benefits from trafficking them.

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