At least 114 Myanmar refugees arrested in Thailand
Over 100 Rohyinga Muslims from Myanmar's Arakan state were arrested when their boat washed up on the shores of Thailand.india Updated: Dec 05, 2006 16:16 IST
Over 100 refugees from military-ruled Myanmar were arrested when their boat washed up on Thai shores early on Tuesday after at least 10 days afloat at sea, police and rights workers said.
"Police have arrested 114 Burmese (Myanmese) men," said Anukoon Nooket, an officer with Ta Kua Pa police in southern Thailand's Phang Nga province.
"They said they came from the Maungdaw town near the border with Bangladesh 10 days ago to look for jobs in Thailand," he added.
Htoo Chit, director of NGO Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development Committee, said the men were ethnic minority Rohyinga Muslims from Myanmar's Arakan state, and included a young boy who said he was 10.
He said the men had in fact left Myanmar on November 16 and were close to starving when they arrived in Thailand at about 4 am on Tuesday morning.
"They have been oppressed by the Burmese military regime, (through) forced labour, forced relocation ... so they cannot survive anymore," Htoo Chit told the agency, adding they pooled their money to buy the boat to escape.
"Unfortunately their boat was damaged," said the rights worker, who interviewed the migrants when police took them to a local market for food before detaining them.
He said a Thai fishing boat had come upon the stricken migrants and directed them to Khuk Khak beach, near Thailand's southern tourist town of Khao Lak, where villagers called the police after their arrival.
Anukoon said the vessel carrying the migrants was basic, with no sail or roof to shelter them, but said the men did not appear to be starving.
"They looked tanned like people who were under the sunlight for a long time, but they still looked healthy," he said.
"They were charged with illegal entry, and the case is expected to be submitted to court tomorrow."
Tens of thousands of the Rohyinga ethnic group fled persecution in Myanmar to Bangladesh in the 1990s, but are slowly being repatriated.
Between 500,000 and 600,000 Myanmese workers are registered in Thailand, while about one million illegal migrants -- 80 per cent of them from Myanmar -- are thought to reside in the kingdom.