More vessels on the way, Rohingya tell Thai officials
Thai officials will go to an island off Phang Nga today after another boatload of Rohingya refugees - thought to be the fourth over the past week or so - was found there late yesterday. Officials said the refugees were hiding in jungle on the unnamed island and it was too dark to try to round them up last night.
The arrival of two more vessels - one on the island, and another towed ashore near Khura Buri on Friday means about 1,000 Rohingya have landed on Thailand's Andaman coast or been captured in Sadao, further south, this month.
Meanwhile, five more vessels are allegedly at sea and heading this way, according to refugees on the "third" vessel, who came ashore on Friday.
Some 114 people were on "third" boat that arrived in Phang Nga province on Friday, about 100km south of Ranong. These refugees, aged from 60 to a one-year-old baby, were said to be in a very weak condition as they had run out of food and water, despite having stopped and collected water on an island on their 13-day journey south.
A translator working for Al Jazeera said the Rohingya on the "third" boat told provincial officials they were on one of eight boats that left Sittwe together. Only three of these had arrived in Thailand to date. The eight boats drifted apart over the past two weeks and the location of the other five is unknown.
Sittwe is a port in Arakan State (also known as Rakhine State) in western Myanmar close to sites where ethnic violence caused more than 100 deaths and forced tens of thousands of people - mostly Muslims - to flee their homes in June and then again just a few months ago.
District officials were overseeing aid for the "third" boatload at the district hall in Khura Buri yesterday. Medics and local Muslims were helping to give out medicine, food and blankets. Many people on this boat were sick, none were said to have died during the trip.
Four teenage boys who had been on the "third" vessel but hid from Thai authorities on an island off the coast before it was towed to the mainland, wandered into the camp yesterday to join their friends after getting a lift to the mainland on another boat.
All up some 114 on the "third" vessel had been charged by police for illegal entry into Thailand.
Meanwhile, about 550 were found in raids in Sadao, further south, and 135 arrived on two vessels that arrived last week.
Officials in Khura Buri said they were waiting to hear from top authorities in Bangkok on what to do with the latest arrivals.
Many of the Rohingya survivors have been stuck in refugee camps not far from Sittwe living in bleak conditions and facing an uncertain future, given that Nay Pyi Taw has refused to recognise them as citizens, and asked United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres in June to resettle them.
The Myanmar government calls the Rohingya "Bengalis" and insists they arrived in their country in recent times, despite evidence by academics that this ethnic group has lived in the Rakhine area for several centuries.