SATUN : A better plan is needed to deal with nearly 2,000 illegal Rohingya migrants detained in shelters across the country, authorities say.
The Rohingya who have been arriving here in recent weeks are lumped in together, with authorities finding it hard to tell if they were victims of smuggling or trafficking, or just plain illegal immigrants, police said yesterday.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) visited shelters holding Rohingya in Satun and Songkhla yesterday. About 1,769 Rohingya are being detained in shelters in several provinces in the South and the Northeast, including Mukdahan and Ubon Ratchathani.
Local police and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) say a more systematic screening and verification process is needed, which will help tell how the Rohingya arrived here, and what should happen next.
Songkhla governor Krisda Boonrach said local authorities have been taking good care of the Rohingya despite their illegal immigrant status. He said they are receiving better care than Thai detainees and other foreign illegal immigrants.
Mohammad Enus, a 15-year old Rohingya, from Satun Emergency House, said he fled a terrible situation at Rakhine State's Maung Daw township. His father was killed and some local girls had been raped, he said. "Many houses in my village were burnt down, and the mosque was also torched," he said in tears.
"Kids were trying to douse the fire but some of them were shot."
Mohammad Ayu, 14, also from Rakhine, said kids had to pay 5,000-60,000 kyats to get on board a boat which fled Rakhine State. He and 71 others drifted for weeks. They were stopped and transferred by some uniformed officers before being handed over to a broker, he said.
Pol Maj Jatuporn Arunlertawan, a DSI officer, said it is difficult to determine if they were victims of smuggling or trafficking. "Right now, they are detained together with the illegal immigrants. Their stories need to be verified," he said.
Pol Col Kriskorn Paleethunyawong, deputy commander of Songkhla Provincial Police, said the Rohingya migrants should be prosecuted as illegal immigrants like everyone else who enters the country illegally.
Both police officers told the NHRC that charges would scare off other traffickers from taking part in the business.
They said they do not yet know the truth about why the Rohingya have been turning up in large numbers.
Pol Col Kriskorn said that with limited information, authorities could not apply the 2008 Anti-Trafficking Act to the Rohingya migrant cases.
This was despite the fact that an investigation had led to 13 arrest warrants being issued.
Six Thais and six Myanmar nationals have been detained. One of the Myanmar nationals has fled and two Thais have been bailed.
They are suspected of bringing the Rohingya in illegally as well as detaining and confining the migrants.
NHRC commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara said the government should bring in the UN Refugee Agency to help screen the migrants. A long-term solution is needed to deal with the migrants.
The Chularatchamontri Office has donated 300,000 baht to improve living conditions of the detained migrants.
Another 3 million baht in donations has been earmarked for additional help.
About the author
- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat