15 Jan More Rohingya migrants die in Thailand as dozens held

Written by AFP Published in Regional Read 2737 times
Ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar wait for registration after being rescued, at an Immigration Detention center in Sadao, Songkhla province, southern Thailand, 11 January 2013. Photo: Thoranit Pirunla-Ong/EPA
Ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar wait for registration after being rescued, at an Immigration Detention center in Sadao, Songkhla province, southern Thailand, 11 January 2013. Photo: Thoranit Pirunla-Ong/EPA

BANGKOK (AFP) - Two more Rohingya migrants have died in southern Thailand after trucks packed with dozens of members of the Myanmar Muslim minority group were intercepted by authorities, police said on January 14.

The two men, both believed to be aged 20, died in hospital of hunger and dehydration on January 13, a day after police reported a Rohingya woman had died from suffocation while making the same journey through the kingdom.

On January 11, Thai authorities found five pickup trucks carrying nearly 100 Rohingya, mostly aged under 18, in the HuaSai district of Nakhon Si Thammarat province on the Gulf of Thailand.

"These two men were found to be in a serious condition," provincial police commander Kiattipong Khawsamang told AFP. "We took them to two local hospitals, where they died from hunger and dehydration."

Two of the Thai pickup drivers arrested at the scene have been charged with human trafficking, the commander added.

"We are investigating others involved in the trafficking ring and believe we can issue arrest warrants against them soon," he said.

The 95 surviving migrants are currently being held in shelters in the southern province as Thailand's social development ministry determines whether to deport them back to Myanmar.

Thousands of Rohingya, described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, have fled deadly communal unrest in western Myanmar's Rakhine state since 2012.

In recent weeks Thai authorities have discovered scores of the group fleeing dire conditions by making perilous journeys across the ocean, taking advantage of the slightly calmer winter waters in the Andaman Sea to head south.

Rights groups say the stateless migrants often fall into the hands of people-traffickers.

They have also criticised Thailand in the past for pushing boatloads of Rohingya entering Thai waters back out to sea and for holding migrants in overcrowded facilities.

The ruling junta says it has taken significant steps to combat trafficking since June, when the United States dumped Thailand to the bottom of its list of countries accused of failing to tackle modern-day slavery.

Thai deputy foreign minister Don Pramudwinai recently laid out new regulations including a ban on workers under 18 in the fishing industry.

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Last modified on Thursday, 15 January 2015 11:13