Public statement: Thailand urged to suspend repatriation of Rohingya persons fleeing from persecution and to investigate if such persons are victims of human trafficking
It has been reported that on 8 November 2014, police at Kapoe, Ranong province in Thailand, apprehended a group of Rohingya people. According to officials from the Social Development and Human Security Office, there there were 299 Rohingya persons including 13 children, who were held in custody at the District Hall of Kapoe. In addition, according to the Bangkok Post website, the authorities are preparing to repatriate all the Rohingya persons to Myanmar since “the Rohingya people are Muslims from Myanmar. They are illegal migrants…If they come in (illegally) then we must push them back …”
The Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) believes that the Rohingya people in Thailand have mostly migrated from Rakhine state, West coasts of Burma. Rohingya people face discrimination in Myanmar and this fear of persecution is one of the main reasons that push them to leave Myanmar. Based on research, HRDF understands that the final destination of the Rohingya persons is Malaysia. However, when they land on the Thai coast, Thai authorities have arrested them under the 1979 Immigration Act, and while some are detained in centers under the Immigration Bureau, others are sent to the halfway home for women and children awaiting deportation.
In light of the principle of non-refoulement, and Thailand’s obligation under the international human rights conventions and international customary laws, the Rohingya people should be treated as refugees fleeing from persecution who are entitled to protection by the Thai State.
In addition, HRDF during the course of its research, has identified changes in the migratory pattern of Rohingya persons. In recent years, increasingly brokers have been found to be involved in the transportation of Rohingya persons to a third country, such as Malaysia. The cost agreement is that the cost of transportation and other charges would be deducted from the wages of the Rohingya persons when they receive employment in the third country. In this way, an increasing number of Rohingya persons are smuggled through such brokers.
HRDF has also found that once the Rohingya persons are in the boat at sea, they face cruel and inhumane treatment. They are deprived of food and if they complain, they are threatened to be thrown into the sea. Once they reach land some of them are subjected to physical assault by the brokers who demand additional money from the relatives as a prior condition for sending them to Malaysia. Some of the Rohingya persons are sold to fishing trawlers.
These actions by the brokers fall under the scope and ambit of the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, B.E. 2551 (2008) and the Immigration Act B.E. 2522 (1979).
Therefore, HRDF urges the Thai State to;
Suspend the repatriation of the group of Rohingya persons to Myanmar and the government should support and allow officers from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to interview the Rohingya persons in order to verify their personal statuses and consequently take appropriate action.
Act in compliance with the principle of non-refoulement principle with regard to all persons who are fleeing from countries where place where their lives are under threat and have made entered into the Kingdom of Thailand since it is an obligation according to the following Conventions;
· 1984 Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)’s Article 3(1) which provides that “No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture”.
· 1951 Refugee Convention’s Article 33 which provides that “No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”.
Effectively enforce the 2008 Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act by identifying persons who may have been victims of human trafficking and take necessary action to investigate, identify, prosecute and punish the offenders, so that trafficking in persons is prevented and suppressed.
Urgently consult with the sending and receiving countries in ASEAN regarding the migration of the Rohingya persons while bearing in mind the issues of human rights, security and safety.
With respect in human rights and human dignity
Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) 02 277 6882