msa April 28, 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

Thai Authority has often been accused of selling Rohingya refugees arriving at its shores to Human Traffickers. (Photo: Phuket Gazette)

PHUKET ( Thailand has been urged to ”root out networks of corrupted officials with links to human traffickers, and crack down on trafficking rings.”

The recommendations come at the conclusion of a chapter on Rohingya in the Shadow Report on Thailand’s Implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Here is what the reports submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture say about treatment of Rohingya in Thailand:

Chapter 6. Cruel Treatment Towards the Rohingya (Article 16)

A. Current Policy & Practice

The Thai government’s policies towards the Rohingya are ”ad hoc and inadequate,” as Human Right Watch has characterised Thailand’s policies on refugees and stateless people in general.

Over the years, measures taken by the Thai government have involved either deporting the Rohingya back at the Myanmar border; ”pushing back” their boats out to sea, with little supplies and sometimes no running engines, resulting in over 300 deaths in 2008-2009 alone; or re-supplying their boats and ”helping them on” towards their assumed final destinations (usually Malaysia or Indonesia).

Then, in early 2013, the Thai government shifted its policy on the Rohingya towards detaining them pending further measures. In January that year, the Thai authorities arrested over 800 Rohingya from several plantation raids in southern provinces, and hundreds more were also apprehended when their boats were intercepted by the authorities. They were all sent to be detained in several detention centers throughout the country.

The number of the Rohingya detained swelled to approximately 2000 people in June 2013, while the government, under international pressure, struggled to find suitable solutions for them. With time, these detained Rohingya slipped outside of Immigration detention centres, presumably with the help of human traffickers.

At the end of 2013, the last group of the detained Rohingya was reported to have been deported to Myanmar’s Koh Son. It was unclear whether they would be sent back to the Rakhine state or if they would be allowed to continue their journey to their next country of destination after they were deported.
B. Violations

Concurrent to such policies and practice at the government level, it has been widely reported that Thai officials themselves have been engaging in selling the Rohingya boat people to human traffickers.

One BBC report from January 2013 shows the account of a young Rohingya man who escaped Myanmar to Thailand in November 2012 to flee ethnic violence. After the boat that he and 60 other Rohingya were on was intercepted by the Thai authorities, they were put in police vans and sold to people smugglers who then extracted money from them.
The trafficked Rohingya were severely beaten and forced to pay for their freedom or continuation of the journey to their final destinations. The report also reveals an under-the-table deal when another group of nearly 80 Rohingya were intercepted by the Thai authorities on 1 January 2013, and sold by officials to traffickers.

The 2012 report by Human Rights Watch also reports similar accounts of Rohingya being sold by Thai officials. These Rohingya were subjected to severe beatings and cruel treatment by their traffickers. Some who could not raise enough money were beaten to death.

Other reports also show that many Rohingya are sold to work in dangerous jobs such as on fish trawlers notorious for labor abuse and abysmal conditions, or into sexual slavery in the case of women. The widespread networks of human traffickers preying on the Rohingya were also confirmed by Surapong Kongchantuk from the human rights subcommittee under the Lawyers Council of Thailand who acknowledged the involvement of corrupted Thai officials.

However, as of June 2013, it was reported that only one police officer has been charged with taking part in human trafficking of the Rohingya, as a result of a probe into the rape of a Rohingya woman who was lured from a government-run shelter set up for Rohingya women and children.

Although such a charge is unprecedented, little further progress has been made. In fact, the charge was not pursued in 2014, according to court documents.

The Thai government should be doing much more to combat trafficking. The lack of genuine attempts, thus far, by the government to investigate and combat trafficking of the Rohingya shows its lack of political will to root out networks of corrupt officials engaging in such human trade.

This has resulted in growing networks of Rohingya trafficking today, and signals the failure of the Thai state to sincerely uphold article 16 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

[Thailand must] undertake genuine efforts to root out networks of corrupted officials with links to human traffickers, and crack down on trafficking rings.

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