- Published: 9 Sep 2013 at 20.07
Many incarcerated Rohingya migrants from Myanmar are asking to be sent home as their hope of being resettled in a third country fades following nine months in detention in Thailand.
What to do about the detainees remains a big headache for authorities in charge of security, foreign policy and immigration.
The first deadline for the Muslim Rohingya to be deported from Thailand was in July, but a lack of any progress on where to send them meant the government had no choice but to grant them another six months to stay.
Immigration Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Pharnu Kerdlarpphon said many Rohingya have told officials that they wanted to be repatriated to Myanmar, despite the fact the government there views them as illegal immigrants, not citizens.
Immigration police have been instructed to ask all individual Rohingya detained in Thailand if they would voluntarily choose to return home to Myanmar's troubled Rakhine state, and to give written consent for repatriation.
On proposals to establish a refugee camp for the Rohingya in Thailand, Pol Lt Gen Pharnu said state agencies are against the idea, because it could make the country vulnerable to an influx of illegal Rohingya immigrants, which would be against government policy.
“We understand that they’ve been under custody for nine months and until now there’s no answer where to take them. Malaysia doesn’t want them. Myanmar doesn’t want them. They don’t want to stay in Thailand either. Most of them want to go home," the immigration police chief said.
“We may have to send them directly to Rakhine and we are coordinating on the issue [with Myanmar authorities].The method of the repatriation will be further discussed after we get the exact number of the Rohingya who want to go home.”