Thursday, January 22, 2009

PM Abhisit: No access to boat refugees

(Bangkok Post)-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva refused to grant UN experts access to 126 boat people from Myanmar, following allegations that the Thai army had left them to die on the open seas.

He dodged reporters' questions on a request from the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) to visit the group, and urged it instead to work with Thai authorities.

"The agency should come and talk to us about how to work together. Our work together should be based on cooperation and appropriate rules," Abhisit told reporters.

"They (the UN) should understand that every country has this problem (of refugees)," he said, adding that he wanted to discuss the matter with Myanmar.

Late Tuesday, the UNHCR announced it had asked the Thai government for access to the refugees to assess their needs.

Spokesman Ron Redmond said 80 of the migrants were being held on Sai Daeng island off the Thai coast in the Andaman Sea.

Another 46 have been handed over to the Thai military authorities with no further information on their current location, he said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it spoke with UNHCR frequently and may arrange a meeting with agency officials to discuss the matter further.

Survivors and a human rights group have accused the army and navy of detaining and beating up to 1,000 members of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar late last year, before towing them out to sea with little food and water.

Nearly 650 of the Muslim Rohingya have been rescued in waters off India and Indonesia.

Some of them told officials that they had been beaten in Thailand before being set adrift in barges with no engines or navigational equipment.

The spokesman for the country's state security body, Colonel Thanatip Sawangsaeng, said Tuesday the case was being investigated.

He added that the army chief had said that the military "followed international standards and adhered to humanitarian principles."

Mr Abhisit said he had requested further photo evidence and information from the navy on Thailand's routine treatment of illegal immigrants.

Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Virasakdi Futrakul said neighbouring countries would be invited to a joint discussion on the Rohingya, describing them as a "regional problem".

"The ministry will invite ambassadors from Myanmar, India, Bangladesh and other countries who also have a problem with the Rohingya to discuss the problem and what kind of measures they use," Virasakdi told AFP.

"The Rohingya people are not only one country's problem but a problem for the whole region."

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too