Wednesday, August 19, 2009

After deaths, refugees moved to Suan Plu

By Boonluan Phromprathankul

Foreign agencies concerned about the treatment of detainees

Ranong (The Nation)- Following the deaths of two Rohingya detainees in the Ranong immigration checkpoint detention cells, the remaining 55 detainees have been moved to the Immigration Bureau in Bangkokกฆs Soi Suan Plu area.

Immigration checkpoint inspector Pol Lt-Colonel Nattarit Pinpak said the evacuation order came from the Royal Thai Police and Ranong authorities had prepared two vehicles for the late-night trip to the capital.

A source at the Immigration Bureau said the move followed concern from many parties over the Rohingya detention, especially following the two deaths and several reports of serious illness. The source said the situation had led international organisations to criticise Thailand and its treatment of the Rohingya refugees, most of whom were boat people from Burma.

The source said that during a recent visit by human rights groups and lawyers, detainees had complained that when they fell sick and called for medical attention, Thai guards didnกฆt allow them doctors but gave them basic medicine such as painkillers.

On July 1, detainee Abdul Salam, in his 20s, died. Fellow detainees said he had vomited blood many times, but when they alerted guards to get him treated, they were ignored.

On August 13, Hamma Tula aged about 18, died without any symptoms and was buried according to the Islamic faith on the same day. Reports said there were many more sick Rohingya people in detention who needed urgent attention.

Three welfare groups the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB), the Cross Ethnic Integration in Andaman Project and the Sathiarakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation have asked the government to take action. They had three requests:

** The Rohingya be given medical care and an appropriate place to live, not the Ranong detention cells that were harmful to life and health.

** Since the Rohingya are Muslim, officials must allow them to perform religious activities during the Rama-dan period, starting from August 21.

The government must announce a clear policy not to push the Rohingya back to possible death or torture.

At the Ranong immigration checkpoint, there were initially 86 Rohingya detainees กV a batch of 78 rounded up in January, combined with several others arrested earlier. Since then two have died, 29 were sent to Bangkok for Bangladesh national identification, and 55 remained in detention.

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