The government has agreed to hold about 2,000 Rohingya migrants in detention centres nationwide for another six months, Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok said on Thursday.
The migrants were originally due to remain in the centres for six months while the government assessed options for their relocation, but that initial deadline passed last month. The new detention deadline would now end in January.
The deputy PM, who oversees national security, was responding to an opposition request for details on the government's policy to deal with the Rohingya migrants.
The request was made during a parliamentary session yesterday by Democrat MP for Bangkok Samart Maluleem.
Mr Samart said more than 2,000 Rohingya were being detained at immigration detention centres. He said he was concerned by overcrowding in the centres.
Pol Gen Pracha said the Rohingya, most of whom travelled by boat to escape religious unrest in Myanmar's Rakhine state, had breached the 1979 Immigration Act.
The law allows immigration officers to detain them only at Immigration Bureau detention centres. However, some Rohingya women and children with health problems are being held at shelters operated by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. Pol Gen Pracha said the government was also concerned about the living conditions of the Rohingya.
He said the Foreign Ministry would use the detention deadline extension to hold talks with international organisations to explain the government's policy in caring for the migrants.
The ministry has already held talks with Myanmar and asked it to help repatriate the Rohingya. Myanmar, however, has expressed doubts about the origin of the migrants, saying it needed verification of their identities.
National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pithakwatchara, who oversees the Rohingya problem, said he would ask the government next week to help provide the Rohingya with proper shelters and to raise the problem at an Asean forum.
"It is not just a Thai problem, it is one for all Asean countries," Dr Niran said.
Meanwhile, four Rohingya who earlier escaped from Singkhorn detention centre in Prachuap Khiri Khan's Muang district were apprehended in Bang Saphan district yesterday. Police said they were attempting to reach Malaysia.
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