Friday, March 5, 2010

Rohingya, Detained One Year, Go on Strike

Forty-seven detained Rohingya in the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) in Bangkok went on strike last week, demanding the Thai authorities send them to Mae Sot on the Thai-Burmese border, according to their lawyer.
Nassir Achwarin, their lawyer and a member of Thai Action Committee for Democracy—Burma, told the The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the strike will continue through Friday.
“Some people don't eat food, and some have threaten to hang themselves this Friday if the IDC doesn't comply with their demands,” he said.
However, Chris Lewa, the coordinator of the Arakan Project, said a source told her on Thursday that the Rohingya have since stopped their strike without the authorities' meeting their demands. 
Lewa, said, “I am particular concerned these people may be at risk of indefinite detention. So, a solution should be found for them.”
Their lawyer said, “A person who smuggled them was given a one-year sentence and is now released. They are angry because they have to stay longer than the smuggler.”
The Rohingya are part of a group of 79 Rohingya who were detained more than one year ago after they were arrested in Ranong Province in southern Thailand, where they entered the country illegally by boats from the sea.
Their lawyer said, “I met them last on Feb. 15. They told me they need to know how long the process will take to send them to another place or a third country.”
He said it would probably be necessary to bring in the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to find a solution that would be fair to the Rohingya.
UNHCR regional spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey, told The Irrawaddy, “In general, we are ready to help the Thai government solve the situation and find a solution for them if the Thai government asks for help. We think it is important to identify exactly who these people are so a solution can be found for them.”
Of the 79 Rohingya arrested in Ranong last year, two died while in detention due to what the Rohingya said were poor living conditions.
According to the Arakan Project, it was established that 30 Rohingya were Bangladeshi, and they were returned to Bangladesh.
Some human rights groups in Thailand submitted a letter to the Thai government requesting that the  Rohingya not be repatriated for fear that they would be persecuted.
Hundreds of Muslim Rohingya, regular victims of discrimination and human rights abuse in Bangladesh and Arakan State in Burma, have sought to leave those countries by taking to sea in open boats, in hope of reaching Malaysia or Thailand. Unknown numbers have vanished during the voyage.
International rights groups last year accused the Thai navy of turning back boats of illegal migrants that tried to land in Thailand. The Thai government denied the charge.