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Nearly 6,000 Rohingya refugees enter Thai waters—army



Migrants thought to be from Myanmar’s Muslim-minority Rohingya are pictured at a detention centre after they were rounded up in raids on hidden camps in the Thai south, in Thailand’s southern province of Narathiwat on January 16, 2013. The UN’s refugee arm said on January 16 it had permission from Thailand to access some 850 people, many thought to be from Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, held after raids on hidden camps in the Thai south. Hundreds of migrants have been arrested in the past week in police sweeps on remote areas in rubber plantations near the border with Malaysia, leading the UNHCR to seek to confirm whether any of them plan to seek asylum. AFP PHOTO/MADAREE TOHLALA

BANGKOK—Almost 6,000 Rohingya boat people fleeing communal violence in western Myanmar have illegally entered Thai waters since October, an army spokesman said Thursday.

Of the 5,899 Rohingya who entered Thai territory, 1,752 are now in Thai immigration holding centers, police stations or welfare shelters, according to the military’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

Some of the others were pushed back to sea, said ISOC spokesman Dithaporn Sasasamit, although he was unable to say how many.

Thai authorities said last month that they were investigating allegations that some Rohingya arriving in Thailand had fallen into the hands of people traffickers with the involvement of army officials.

Activists say smugglers demand large sums of money from Rohingya to transport them illegally to Malaysia. Those who are unable to pay are sometimes forced into labor.

Officials have said that those Rohingya now in Thailand will be allowed to stay for six months in detention while the government works with the UN refugee agency to find third countries willing to accept them.

But they have threatened to turn away any more Rohingya refugees arriving.

Described by the UN as among the most persecuted minority groups in the world, Rohingya have for years trickled abroad to neighboring Bangladesh and, increasingly, to Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.

Buddhist-Muslim unrest has left at least 180 people dead and more than 110,000 displaced in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine since June 2012.

The UN estimates that about 13,000 boat people fled Myanmar and Bangladesh in 2012 with some dying during the perilous sea voyage.


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Tags: Bangladesh , Myanmar , refugee , Ronghiya , Violence




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