Rohingya wash after surviving 45 days at sea on a voyage via India
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Phuket Rohingya: 108 Land on Island Off Southern Phuket from India
By Chutima Sidasathian and Ala Morison
Saturday, March 23, 2013
The Rohingya have been brought ashore to Phuket's Chalong Police
Station, with no clear indication whether they will be 'helped on' to
Malaysia or trucked back towards the Burma border.
PHUKET: A boatload of Rohingya refugeees came ashore near Phuket early today after a remarkable 45-day journey via India.
The 108 boatpeople split into two groups, with about 60 swimming to
shore on an island off southern Phuket, not far from the popular tourist
daytrip port of Chalong.
One group of 44 men and boys accompanied the wooden open boat to a pier
at Lon island, where a small Thai Muslim community lives.
Five women among the 108, with the youngest boy aged five, one of
several children under 10. The oldest passenger was a man aged 73.
It was the fourth group of Rohingya to have landed on Phuket this year as thousands flee oppression and race-hate in Burma.
A spokesman for the group said they had set off from a refugee camp in
the troubled township of Sittwe, where the Burmese government tacitly
encourages a policy of ethnic cleansing.
''We ended up going the wrong way and we were picked up by the Indian
Navy in the Andaman and Nicobar islands,'' the spokesman said. ''The
Indian Navy gave us food and helped us restart our journey.''
The Thai Navy also 'helps on' boats of refugees apprehended off the Andaman coast of Thailand.
The Navy had not arrived to join the 44 refugees gathered at the pier
off Lon island today. They showered under a hose at the pier, washed
clothes and sat down to eat a simple meal of reconstituted rice.
Many of the refugees had telephone numbers with them, sometimes written
on the inside of shirt collars or on small scraps of paper.
They were keen to have the chance to call relatives or friends in
Malaysia to say they were safe and in Thailand for the time being.
The boat seemed relatively well-equipped compared to other boats that have been intercepted off Phuket.
It had a large supply of dried rice and a simple wood-fired cooker sat
on the open deck. Most of the men and boys seemed quite healthy.
Soon after, the other 64 people from the boat were all ferried by
longtails, the traditional Thai all-purpose vessel, to join the others
At 9.20am, a Marine Police vessel arrived to tow away the Rohingya boat.
It's likely the motors - the Rohingya boat has two - will be repaired
and the boat will be ''helped on'' as soon as possible, despite the
presence of women and children among the passengers.
The landing off Phuket comes with more violence wracking the Muslim
communities of Burma and Thailand holding about 1700 Rohingya men, women
and children while a decision is made about their status.
That could take another four-and-a-half months.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra last week promised an investigation
into a controversial incident in which Rohingya who landed north of
Phuket were allegedly shot at by the Thai military.