January 25, 2013 00:00 By Supitcha Rattana,
Seeks to 'clear air' over reports hundreds smuggled into province for work
Narathitwat Governor Apinan Seutananuwong has ordered a probe into reports that more than 700 Rohingya have been smuggled into the southern province after crossing the border from Myanmar.
“I don’t know how the reports have come out. But to clear the air, I have told relevant officials to investigate,” he said yesterday.
Apinan said he had not heard that hundreds of illegal Rohingya migrants were in his province until media featured the reports.
“We will probe deeply into the matter,” he said.
If the reports are confirmed, the number of Rohingya found illegally entering Thailand this month could soar past 2,000.
As of Wednesday, official statistics showed at least 1,381 Rohingya were being detained in various spots by officials for illegal entry. All of them were believed to have just arrived in Thailand.
Described by the UN as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, the Muslim Rohingya have been denied citizenship and face ongoing persecution in their native Myanmar. Several of the latest arrivals to Thailand have reported suffering severe discrimination and brutality in their homeland.
The Fourth Army Area has launched a probe into an allegation that the Rohingya are being trafficked into Thailand with the help of Thai soldiers.
The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) had so far found no evidence of trafficking, DSI chief Tarit Pengdith said yesterday.
“At this point, we can’t conclude that these cases are about human trafficking,” Tarit said.
He said available information to date had shown that the Rohingya had illegally entered Thailand in search of work.
“There’s no sign they were duped or physically mistreated,” he said.
Tarit said the DSI would take over cases related to the Rohingya if further evidence suggested that they were victims of human trafficking.
He assigned DSI deputy chief Yanaphon Youngyuen to attend a meeting with the Foreign Affairs Ministry about the Rohingya today.
In a related development, a Songkhla man surrendered himself to police yesterday to face charges of sheltering and detaining illegal migrants. Saroj Kaewmaneechote had been sought by police after they found a group of Rohingya at his home in Songkhla’s border district of Sadao earlier this month.
Montae sae Lor, a 58-year-old Thai, and Dorlohmae, a 55-year-old Myanmarese, were arrested and charged with supervising the Rohingya for Saroj.
“We have found that agents for illegal migrant workers have had Malaysian accomplices too,” said Songkhla’s deputy police chief Colonel Krissakorn Pleethanyawong.
Also yesterday, officials from organisations including the Sheikhul Islam Office, the Songkhla Islamic Committee and the International Committee of the Red Cross yesterday met and agreed to set up a co-ordination committee to facilitate the flow of assistance to the Rohingya in Thailand.