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Thai Navy denies abuse of illegal migrants

Thailand's navy denied it had been involved in the abuse of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar following reports they had been detained and forced back out to sea.

world Updated: Jan 18, 2009 05:27 IST

Thailand's navy on Saturday denied it had been involved in the abuse of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar following reports they had been detained and forced back out to sea.

Navy spokesman Captain Prachachart Sirisawat said the navy had investigated the allegations following media reports that included photographs showing people lying on a beach with their hands trussed above their heads. He said the reports and photographs were misleading.

"The navy has investigated and found more pictures of these 200 illegal migrants later receiving food and water from the authorities," he said.

The navy's denial follows an announcement on Friday by the foreign ministry that it would "reassess the overall situation of illegal immigrants" with regard to neighbouring countries.

The people in the photographs were reportedly ethnic minority Rohingyas from the Myanmar-Bangladesh border region who had been travelling to Thailand in search of work.

The BBC said they had been detained by the Thai navy and later towed out to sea with little food or water, and left to fend for themselves.

The Rohingyas told the BBC they paid middlemen to take them to Thailand by boat but after being detained by the Thai navy upon entering Thai waters were taken to the Thai island of Koh Sai Daeng. They said they were later forced onto boats without engines that were towed out to sea and left to drift.

Hundreds of Rohingyas had been rescued by the Indian coastguard and were now being treated for dehydration in the Andaman islands and the Indonesian province of Aceh, the BBC reported, adding hundreds were still missing.