Call for regional help to deal with Rohingya
Flood of refugees should be discussed by Asean, NHRC says.Ethnic Rohingya fleeing from Myanmar deserve the attention of Asean as their problems are huge, a panel of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) says.
Panel chairwoman Angkhana Neelapaijit spoke yesterday after visiting some Rohingya people in Narathiwat.
More than 800 Rohingya were found to have illegally entered southern Thailand earlier this month to escape alleged violence in Myanmar. The news put the media spotlight and public attention squarely on them.
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority community from Rakhine state in western Myanmar.
"This issue is big. It should be addressed at the Asean level. Myanmar is also a member of the regional grouping," Angkhana said.
NHRC chairwoman Amara Pongsapich visited the Rohingya people with Angkhana.
At the same time, Senator Jate Sirataranont urged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to raise the issue of the Rohingya with Nay Pyi Taw, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
"We need to find a balance between humanitarian issues and security concerns," he said.
Angkhana said the Thai government must also discuss the Rohingya with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration, the Red Cross and Unicef.
Jate argued that Thai authorities must send the Rohingya refugees to a third, Muslim country as fast as possible. However, as the process may take time, he believed the government should set up more temporary shelters for them.
Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, however, expressed concern about creating more shelters for the Rohingya. "We can't take in too many people otherwise problems will arise in the long run. We have to take care of our national security," he said.
It has been claimed there are more than 130,000 Rohingya in Thailand - although rights activists have suggested the figure is a fraction of that. But no third country has expressed an interest in taking them so far.
Prayuth said Thai authorities should only provide humanitarian aid pending deportation of the Rohingya back to their homeland, or their move to a third country.
"We won't ignore the humanitarian principles but we also must pay attention to our national interests," he said.
He threatened action against any soldier involved in smuggling the Rohingya, given more claims of officers demanding money to escort refugees or economic migrants who want help to enter Malaysia.
Ranong Tourism Association adviser Nit Ouitekkeng said the number of illegal migrants in the province was growing fast and it had caused social, public-health, environmental and security problems.
"This means our province's tourism potential is hurt. We are worried about safety problems," she said, pointing out that thefts - sometimes blamed on the refugees - had taken place.