7 January 2014

Reuters: Thai officials involved in human trafficking of Rohingya Muslims

A Reuters investigation revealed that Thai naval security forces were involved in the smuggling of Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar (also known as Burma) in growing numbers over the last year following outbreaks of religious violence in Myanmar. A smuggling network, centred on the west coast of southern Thailand, transported thousands of Rohingya mainly into neighbouring Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country the Rohingya view as a haven from persecution. In addition to the Royal Thai Navy, the coastal seas are patrolled by the Thai Marine Police and by militias under the control of military commanders.

The report, published on 5 December 2013 and based on a two-month investigation in three countries, revealed a clandestine policy to remove Rohingya refugees from Thailand’s immigration detention centers and deliver them to human traffickers waiting at sea. Thousands of Rohingya are then transported across southern Thailand and held hostage in camps hidden near the border with Malaysia until relatives pay ransoms to release them, according to the report. Some are beaten, some are killed, and some die due to dehydration or disease. Reuters‘ interviews with refugees and smugglers found that Rohingya who can’t pay for their passage are handed over to traffickers, who sometimes sell the men as indentured servants on farms or into slavery on Thai fishing boats.

The United Nations and U.S. State Department called on Thailand to investigate the allegations surfaced by Reuters. Thailand’s navy denied the report that its personnel were involved in a lucrative smuggling and trafficking network that exploits minority Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar. However, presented with the findings of this report, Deputy Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police, Maj-Gen Chatchawal Suksomjit, admittedĀ  that Thai officials might have profited from Rohingya smuggling in the past. He also confirmed the existence of illegal camps in southern Thailand, which he called ‘holding bays’.

Currently, there are criminal defamation charges pending in Thailand against two journalists who wrote about the alleged involvement of the Thai Navy with human trafficking.

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Source: Reuters | Special Report: Thailand secretly supplies Myanmar refugees to trafficking rings
Source: Reuters | U.N., U.S. call for investigations into Thai trafficking of Rohingya
Source: Reuters | UPDATE 1-Thai navy denies allegation of Rohingya Muslim smuggling
Source: UN News Centre | UN human rights office concerned about Thai Navy defamation case against reporters

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