Fearing for the well-being of some 126 boat people in Thai custody, the United Nations refugee agency today requested access to the group of stateless Muslims who fled Myanmar to determine their need for international protection.
Last week the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) voiced strong concern over allegations that the Government had intercepted a large number of incoming Rohingya boat people in Thai waters, towed them back out to sea, and left them to die.
The agency has information that 80 of the Rohingya refugees are held on Koh Sai Daeng, an island off the coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea, but the whereabouts of the other 46 who the Thai military reportedly set adrift at sea last Friday are unknown.
UNHCR noted the new Government’s commitment to human rights and said that it was eager to quickly find a resolution to the crisis with Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.
The agency also stressed that the Thai Government should take all measures to make sure the lives of the Rohingya boat people are not put at risk, adding that it welcomed local media reports announcing Government investigations into accusations of maltreatment.
There are 28,000 Rohingya refugees in two UNHCR camps in Bangladesh, which shares its south-east border with Myanmar, and some 200,000 living outside the camps there.
For several years at this time of year, many of these Rohingya refugees have been desperate enough to risk their lives at sea in small boats sailing from Bangladesh or Myanmar, often turning up in Thailand, Malaysia or as far away as Indonesia.