The navy unit responsible for pushing Rohingya migrants back out to sea has denied accusations its personnel shot and killed at least two migrants in the sea off Phuket last month, a source said.
Third Fleet commander Vice Admiral Tharathorn Khachitsuwan made the denial after an inquiry by navy commander-in -chief Surasak Rounroengrom during his visit to Phangnga naval base in the province's Thai Muang district yesterday, the source said.
Adm Surasak asked about the accusations _ made by Human Rights Watch and a report published in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post _ that the navy opened fire on a group of Rohingya immigrants on Feb 22 while it transferred them to a smaller vessel.
According to Human Rights Watch, at least two Rohingya were killed after they jumped off the boat and attempted to swim back to shore.
The report was based on statements taken from Rohingya survivors and villagers who were quoted as saying they believed the shooters were Thai navy personnel.
Phangnga naval base commander Rear Admiral Veerapan Sukkon and commanders of naval vessels under the 3rd Fleet were also present when Adm Surasak made his inquiry.
"The vessel commanders insist no naval officer did such a thing. Rohingya people aren't [our] enemies," the source said.
The source said the 3rd Fleet was following the government's push-back policy, which is to provide intercepted boats carrying Rohingya migrants with necessities such as fuel and food before pushing them back to sea.
Adm Surasak yesterday ordered the navy not to use force against the migrants and to provide necessary assistance.
He asked the naval officers to exercise patience and not to be demoralised by the allegations against them.
He also ordered an investigation into an allegation about the possible involvement of naval officers in the trafficking of Rohingya.
About the author
- Writer: Wassana Nanuam