Friday, May 1, 2015

Rohingya Mass Graves found in Thailand

The news below is extracted from Channel 4 News and HRW news clips:

In a troubled world, people do extraordinary things for a better life. Fleeing poverty or persecution – or perhaps both – tens of thousands have made their way to the north African coast this year, purchasing seats on rickety boats that they hope will take them to the European mainland. Many did not reach their intended destination however – 1,200 lost their lives over the course of the last month, a staggering increase in the number of fatalities when compared with the previous year.

Last night, a small team of Thai policemen were led to an encampment in the jungle near a town called Padang Baser on the Thai-Malaysia border. The human traffickers and smugglers who ran this place – a major staging post on the route south – appeared to have made a rapid departure, taking their victims with them. However, there were bits of food and drink cans on the ground. The police also found a dead body that had not been buried.

Still, officers were about to make a far more gruesome discovery. About 300 metres from the main camp, the police team found approximately 50 graves. Forensics personnel arrived on site this morning and have currently removed 32 bodies – the vast majority thought to be members of a marginalised Muslim group in Burma called the Rohingya.

Police think the criminal gang who ran the camp left two days ago and have moved across the border into Malaysia. “It will be difficult to trace them now,” said Police-General Somyot Pumpunmuang. The discovery which police today described as “shocking” underlines the brutal nature of the trade in human beings. Campaigners say hundreds of people die along this route every year, in overcrowded boats, isolated camps and squalid detention centres.

“Trafficking of persons in Thailand has long been out of control, something that senior officials have admitted to Human Rights Watch and others,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The finding of a mass grave at a trafficking camp sadly comes as little surprise. The long involvement of Thai officials in trafficking means that an independent investigation with UN involvement is necessary to uncover the truth and hold those responsible to account.”
Rohingya who are apprehended in Thailand are treated as “illegal immigrants” subject to deportation without regard to the threats facing them in Burma. Rohingya men are sometimes detained in overcrowded immigration detention facilities across the country, while women and children have been sent to shelters operated by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. Many more are believed to be transferred through corrupt arrangements into the hands of human trafficking gangs where they face cruel treatment and no prospect of assistance from Thai authorities.

As with previous Thai governments, the military junta of Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha does not permit the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to properly conduct refugee status determination screenings of Rohingya.

“Each year, tens of thousands of Rohingya flee the dire human rights situation in Burma only to be further abused and exploited at the hands of traffickers in Thailand,” Adams said. “The discovery of these mass graves should shock the Thai government into shutting down the trafficking networks that enrich officials but prey on extremely vulnerable people. Instead of sticking Rohingya in border camps or immigration lockups, the government should provide safety and protection.”

The discovery of more than 30 bodies in a human trafficking camp should prompt Thai authorities to authorize an independent, United Nations-assisted investigation, commit to publish its findings, and bring those responsible to justice, including any government officials involved, Human Rights Watch said today. The UN and others, including the United States, that have called for an end to trafficking in Thailand should urgently press the government to end official complicity and willful blindness in rampant trafficking in the country.

I hope that the Buddhist government in Thailand change its treatment of the fleeing Rohingya Muslims, who are forced to flee another Buddhist country, Myanmar. In the past, while the Thai government has been kinder and gentler to the fellow Buddhists from Burma, they were not so, and as a matter of fact quite hostile to the Rohingya refugees. This attitude has forced many fleeing Rohingyas to seek help of human traffickers to go to more friendly Malaysia. Instead, as it has become quite norm these days, the greedy traffickers are using them as slave labors or even killing them until a handsome payment is made before they are either released or taken to Malaysia. It is a sad story and needs immediate attention from world bodies like the UN and ASEAN to stop this victimization.

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