Thursday, January 17, 2013

UNHCR to interview Rohingya migrants in southern Thailand

Thursday, 17 January 2013 13:15 Mizzima News

The Thai authorities are to allow the UN’s refugee agency access to 843 Rohingya boatpeople who were arrested over the past week in southern Thailand.

Migrants thought to be from Burma's Rohingya community are pictured on January 16, 2013, at a detention center in southern Thailand after they were rounded up in raids on hidden camps in the Thai south. (Photo: AFP)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will then assess whether the immigrants are seeking asylum or employment, and whether any of them are victims of human trafficking.

A UNHCR spokesperson in Bangkok is quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying that no dates have yet been agreed but that the UN was pushing to do the interviews as soon as possible.

However, no announcement has yet been made to confirm that the migrants arrived from Burma.

Thailand’s Defense Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat said on Wednesday the UN and the international community should play a greater role in addressing the migration of Rohingya.

"We have to take care of them when they come ashore," he is reported by the Bangkok Post as saying, noting the next step would be to send them to a third country.

Despite reports in regional media speculating that the Rohingya migrants might join in the Muslim insurgency in Thailand’s southern provinces, the Thai Defense Minister said there was no reason to believe the Rohingyas are linked to such activities.

Between December and February is Southeast Asia’s cool season when economic migrants and refugees from Burma and Bangladesh traditionally take advantage of the calmer waters to attempt journeys across the Andaman Sea, usually aiming to get to Malaysia or Indonesia.

This “sailing season” has seen a particularly high number of Rohingya boatpeople fleeing sectarian violence in Burma’s restive Rakhine State.
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