Rohingya Refugees in Thailand

Updated: Oct 22

On June 4, 2022, the Thai navy found 59 Rohingya from Myanmar stranded on Koh Dong Island near Satun province in southern Thailand. The navy took them ashore and detained them at the 436 Border Patrol Police unit. Thai officials who questioned them said these Rohingya were abandoned by smugglers, who charged them about 60,000 Thai baht (US$1,750) per person for a journey to Malaysia. This and other recent events have led to a chain reaction against asylum seekers.⁣

The Thai government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha has treated Rohingya arriving at the border as “illegal immigrants,” detaining them in squalid lockups. According to one Western embassy in Bangkok, Thai officials hold more than 470 Rohingya in indefinite immigration detention without access to refugee status determination procedures. In addition, Thai authorities have not permitted UNHCR to conduct refugee status determinations for them. Thailand also discriminates against Rohingya by refusing to allow them to register as legally documented migrant workers, unlike other people coming from Myanmar.⁣

Meanwhile, the Thai navy announced that it would maintain a policy to intercept Rohingya boats that come too close to the coast. After providing them with fuel, food, water, and other supplies, the navy pushed those boats pushed onward to Malaysia or Indonesia. This amounts to a continuation of Thailand’s deadly pushback policy, which has resulted in Rohingya boats going missing on the high seas and people dying, Human Rights Watch said.⁣

The Thai navy further stated that any boat that somehow lands on Thai shores would be seized, and immigration officials would arrest the men, women, and children aboard on illegal entry charges and detain them.⁣

Thai authorities have, for years, said they do not want to accept Rohingya as refugees. However, under international law, Thailand cannot summarily reject the claims of asylum seekers fleeing persecution at the border. Thailand is obligated not to return them before providing a full and fair assessment of their claims for international protection, Human Rights Watch said.⁣

Photo © Reuters

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