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Army chief denies migrant cruelty

world Updated: Jan 20, 2009 12:07 IST
AFP
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Thailand's army chief said Tuesday that the military followed humanitarian principles when dealing with boat people from Myanmar whom they stand accused of mistreating, a security spokesman said.

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

"The army chief (General Anupong Paojinda) said the army has followed the request by the prime minister and is investigating the Rohingya case," said Colonel Thanatip Sawangsaeng, a spokesman for a state security body.

"He said the army has followed the international standards and adhered to humanitarian principles," Thanatip told AFP.

Nearly 650 of the Muslim Rohingya have been rescued in waters off India and Indonesia. Some of them told officials that they were beaten in Thailand before being set adrift in barges with no engines or navigational equipment.

A local human rights organisation that monitors the treatment of Rohingya says that up to 550 of the migrants are still missing at sea, while Indian officials have said they too fear for hundreds who remain unaccounted for.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva met human rights officials Monday and vowed that his government would investigate the claims of abuse of the Rohingya, which the Thai navy has already denied.

Rights groups say the Rohingya are stateless and face persecution from Myanmar's military regime, forcing thousands into rickety boats each year to try to escape poverty and oppression and head to Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Thailand has for the past few years taken a harsh stance on Rohingya landing on its shores, in part to discourage further migration through Thailand.

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