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Local Rohingya prepare to appeal to Asean leaders

Jun 19. 2019
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By THE NATION

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THE 65 ROHINGYA boat people who landed a couple of weeks ago on Rawi Island have been moved from the immigration detention centre and put under the care of the Social Development and Human Security Department, officials said yesterday.

This step was taken as fellow Rohingya living in Thailand make preparations to submit demands for better treatment at the Asean Summit this weekend. 

The 65 Rohingya, along with five Myanmar men, landed on the island in Tambon Koh Sarai of Satun’s Muang district. They were detained for interrogation for a week before being moved to temporary shelters in Songkhla and Surat Thani provinces under the protection of the department. 

The Thai boat captain who was arrested on human-trafficking charges said he had been paid to transport the group from Bangladesh to Malaysia. 

Sangkhom Paphan and 70 passengers were rounded up by Third Naval Region officers on Tuesday after their boat, which had run out of fuel three days earlier, swept ashore. Sangkhom was suspected of being part of a human-trafficking ring. 

The boat people arrived just two weeks before Asean leaders gather for the Bangkok summit, where the Rakhine crisis is likely to become a hot issue as the regional grouping has enhanced its role in helping repatriate Rohingya refugees to the strife-torn Rakhine state. 

Of the over 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, 740,000 fled in 2017 from an army crackedown that the United Nations has referred to as “ethnic cleansing”. 

Repatriation assistance

Asean plans to help with the repatriation of Rohingya and development of the Rakhine state after Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed to send them back. However, the plan stalled in November last year after the first batch of 2,000 Rohingya refused to leave Bangladesh due to safety fears. 

The Rohingya community in Thailand is preparing to call on Asean leaders during the summit to come to a deal with the Myanmar government and guarantee their safe return on a voluntary basis. 

A letter drafted for the leaders, seen by The Nation, called on Myanmar to grant full citizenship to the Rohingya, who are incorrectly referred to in Myanmar as Bengali. 

“The Myanmar government must guarantee that the returnees have the same rights as other Myanmar citizens,” the letter said. 

The Rohingya community also called for all Asean members, including Thailand, to allow them to legally live and work in Myanmar, and also sought measures to prevent human trafficking. 

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