ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thailand: Rohingya migrants to be sent back ‘home’
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Wednesday that all illegal Rohingya migrants would be deported to their home country in accordance with international practice on human rights.
Thai News Agency quoted the premier as denying local media reports that the government plans to establish a refugee centre for Rohingya boat people in the southern province of Ranong on the Myanmar border.
Abhisit said the Rohingyas entering Thailand are not considered refugees, but are illegal migrants and the Thai government will to treat them as ordinary illegal migrants, which means they will be deported according to humanitarian principles.
The authorities will also take action against Thai human traffickers who are involved in rackets bringing the Rohingyas to Thailand, he said.
Cooperation among regional countries should take placed, Mr. Abhisit said, adding that the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry had explained to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officials during a recent meeting that Thailand will not change the status of the Rohingya boat people, but that the agency should step in and offer assistance to prevent human rights violations.
His comments were made following press reports that about one thousand local residents gathered in Ranong on Tuesday, protesting the UNHCR plan to set up a refugee centre for Rohingyas in the coastal province.
Earlier, the Jakarta Post reported that Indonesia foreign ministry would send a team to investigate the arrival of another 198 boatpeople in Aceh province on Tuesday.
The Indonesian daily quoted the ministry spokesman as saying there was no clear information yet where the refugees came from, amid media reports that said they were Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.
Reuters reported Tuesday that Indonesian authorities found the 198 boatpeople floating in a wooden boat off the coast of Aceh after 21 days at sea, with some of them in critical condition.
In a report from the Associated Press, the boatpeople had drifted for three weeks after authorities in Thailand forced them out to sea in a boat without an engine.
Earlier, on January 7, 193 Rohingya and Bangaladeshi arrived in Aceh after being rescued by local fishermen.
The Rohingya people were found without any identity documents and the Myanmar government has denied they are its citizens.
Many Rohingya, mostly Muslims living on the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar, have fled to Thailand and Malaysia to escape alleged persecution by Myanmar’s regime.