In the last month, the Thai government has seized, detained and then marooned at sea approximately 1000 Rohingya refugees. According to numerous press reports, these “rejected” refugees were set adrift in boats without engines, with inadequate supplies of food and water. At least 300 of them are believed to have died, and many more are missing.
From the New York Times:
“In one case last month, the reports say, 410 Rohingya migrants were taken out to sea on a Thai Navy vessel and forced onto an open barge with just four barrels of water and two sacks of rice. Four people were thrown overboard with their hands and feet tied, in order to encourage the others to board the barge, according to the reports.
After drifting for two weeks, about 100 of them were rescued on the Andaman Islands, which are administered by India. About 300 remain missing after trying to swim to shore, according to several reports from the news media and human rights groups.
In a second case soon afterward, 580 people were reportedly seized off the Thai coast on three overcrowded fishing boats. These were towed back out to sea after their engines were removed, said Chris Lewa, an expert on Rohingya issues who heads a private human rights group called the Arakan Project.”
Though the Thai government denies the allegations, and says that all refugees are processed through legal channels, their navy clearly hasn’t gotten the memo: they’re not exactly keeping their mistreatment of the Rohingyas on the down low. Several weeks ago, tourists vacationing in the Similan islands were shocked when their sightseeing boat landed on a beach covered in bound Rohingya refugees, lying on the sand as navy guards whipped them with a leather strap and knotted vines.
One of the vacationers was a journalism student, who has posted his photos of the incident here. He told the South China Morning Post (ungated version here):
“We motored into Donald Duck Bay and saw this strange sight, which we later found out to be the refugees.
We had never seen anything like it before in our entire lives – at first we thought it was a bunch of logs, or seals. Then, maybe, a protest, or illegal fishermen. Other people on the boat thought it was some sort of photo shoot or art display.
At this stage we definitely didn’t think it was refugees – thinking that if it was, the Thai navy would probably not have let us into the cove. Maybe it was an error of judgment by the Thai officers, who seemed a bit disorganised.
We arrived on the beach where people were sun baking and snorkelling, and went for a walk up to the peak. There is a picture of the beach taken from here showing the refugees. We all felt really bad, because here we were, sun baking and snorkelling and having a great holiday, and these people were bound on the beach in the open sun, obviously in a bad condition.
Some of them were trying to sit up and looked like they were complaining, but they were answered with a whip on the back and head. One of them was dragged to the shade – not looking like he was in good shape – where he lay for the rest of our time there. This had an effect on the others, who complained, but they were then hit with the whip.”
Nice, Thailand. Real nice. Not only did you murder hundreds of people, you TOTALLY RUINED that dude’s snorkeling trip.
*Photos of bound refugees on the beach via the South China Morning Post