January 24, 2013 00:00 By Human rights groups have urged
Seminar seeks expanded UN role in screening Rohingya migrants.
“These two countries should play a crucial role in helping Thailand to resolve this problem,” Surapong Kong-janteuk – who heads the Lawyers Council’s human-rights subcommittee on the stateless, migrant workers and displaced people – said yesterday.
He was speaking at a seminar titled “Rohingya, out of the frying pan and into the fire: future and durable resolutions for Thailand”, organised by the Anti-Human Trafficking Network of Thailand at the Student Christian Centre.
Surapong also asked the government to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help it screen the Rohingya to determine whether they were genuine political refugees, economic migrants or trafficking victims – as they would be receiving assistance from the international organisation.
At present, there is no clear policy from the government to resolve the Rohingya refugee problem. Lawmakers approved a Cabinet resolution just last year and designated the National Security Council to take care of the group under humanitarian principles.
“It would be good for Thailand to allow the UNHCR to work with the Rohingya people. That would mean Thailand would no longer have to shoulder [such a large] burden,” he said.
Meanwhile, Philip Robinson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, supported Surapong’s idea, saying it was vital for the Thai government to recognise that the UNHCR needed to play a critical role in solving this crisis.
“The government and the UNHCR should provide access to the Rohingya to evaluate their refugee status and provide assistance for them,” he said.
“Thailand should take the lead in the region to work with countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei to tell Myanmar that enough is enough.
“We no longer agree on the treatment of the Rohingya [and denial of the rights] of this large group of people,” he added.
The Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand (BRAT)’s president Maung Kyaw Nu said he wanted the international community to force the Myanmar government to stop the “genocide” of the Rohingya people in Rakhine State, after which he said the Rohingya would no longer need to flee from Myanmar to Thailand.
“We are asking for Asean and international help to send the United Nations’ peacekeeping forces to rescue Rohingya people in Rakhine. We need international protection,” he said.
Surapong also asked the government to provide temporary shelters for the refugees and not detain them in prison.
He also called for the government to punish strongly those people who are involved in the trafficking of Rohingya refugees into the Kingdom.
Surapong interviewed 78 Rohingya who were arrested for alleged people smuggling and found there was a network who traffic Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to the southern part of Thailand by boat.
At least three people are accused of involvement in smuggling Rohingya into the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Pol Major Jatuporn Arunroektawin, head of the Department of Special Investiga-tion’s Human Trafficking Suppres-sion Division, said he was informed that some Rohingya people who were deported by immigration police had illegally returned to the southern part of the Kingdom.
“Some were saved in the middle of the sea on the way back to their original place, and then they were sent back to enter Thailand again,” he said.