Front page of today's Bangkok paper, The Nation reported today that the Thai Navy is being accused of sending hundred's of ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims from Burma out to sea to die. India has been finding boatloads of half dead or dead people washing up on islands who claim that the Thai Navy stuck them on boats with only two days worth of food and water. It took these people two weeks to wash up on an island. Many died. Some reported that some were attacked by sharks.
"They said they were taken to an island off the Thai coast and beaten up before being forced into boats and pushed into the high seas," said Ranjit Narayan, a police official on India's remote Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Indian coast guard commander S.P. Sharma told AFP news that " We fear several hundred are still missing," coast guard commander S.P. Sharma told AFP. He said India had rescued 446 refugees from four boats since the end of December.
The Hong Kong Morning Post reports that 538 people are dead or reported missing. According to Sharma: "Some survivors also said their boat was towed out to sea by the Thai navy and given two sacks of boiled rice and two gallons of water before being abandoned in the middle of the sea," he said.
The Bangkok Post paper today reported some accounts of survivors
"We were tied up and put into a boat without an engine... we were then towed into the high seas by a motor boat and set adrift," a man named as Zaw Min said.
The BBC reported that amidst these allegations, the Thai Navy has detained more refugees. Thai military officials privately indicated to the BBC that they are worried of a "security risk".
Navy chief Khamthon Phumhiran denied the allegations, as reported by The Bangkok Post in this online article.
These allegations appear to be true, judging from the variety of sources reporting and the very clear pictures from reliable sources. My professor asked an important question today, which I will paraphrase. What was the purpose of sending them out on the ocean to die? From a public policy perspective, how does it make any sense? What were they thinking?
I hope that the Prime Minister, now in the South to meet Human rights groups, will properly deal with this.
It also makes me wonder if Thailand is purposely sabotaging it's image. I know that the government doesn't have a lot of control over some aspects of the country, but every item of news that comes out of Thailand these days seems to be painting a very negative picture. In this blog I've spoken of the Human Zoo, that being 18 refugees that have been accepted to move to New Zealand whom Thailand will not release because the tourists like to look at them. I've also talked about the lack of fire safely.
The big question mark really is the new Prime Minister. So far, I'm feeling very positive that he'll be able to clean up some of these human rights violations. At least he seems willing to hear about these problems whereas the previous "red shirts" generally dismissed them.