Thailand to turn away boatloads of Rohingya

Thailand to turn away boatloads of Rohingya

Thailand to turn away boatloads of Rohingya

Updated 29 January 2013, 3:12 AEDT

Thailand to turn away any more boatloads of Rohingya from neighbouring Burma which try to land on its coast

A senior official says Thailand will turn away any more boatloads of Rohingya from neighbouring Burma which try to land on its coast after an increase in refugees fleeing sectarian unrest.

National Security Council secretary-general, Paradorn Pattanathabutr, told Agence France-Presse that the Thai Navy will no longer allow them to land.

He said: "If we find them, we will provide them with food, water and necessities so they can go to their destinations."

Since June, 2012, an escalation of tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Burma's western state of Rakhine, has triggered a huge exodus of Muslim Rohingya, mostly heading for Malaysia.

More than 1,000 have been detained by Thailand after landing on its coast.

Paradorn said existing detainees would be allowed to stay in Thailand for six months at immigration centres or local police stations while the Government works with the United Nations refugee agency to find third countries willing to accept them.

The tougher stance comes a week after Thai authorities said they were investigating allegations that army officials were involved in the trafficking of Rohingya boat people.

Described by the United Nations as among the most persecuted minority groups in the world, Rohingya have for years trickled abroad to neighbouring Bangladesh and, increasingly, to Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Burma views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.

The United Nations estimates that about 13,000 boat people fled Burma and Bangladesh in 2012, with some dying during the perilous sea voyage. Thailand has been criticised in the past for pushing Rohingya back out to sea.

AFP