Rohingya trafficking victims endure stress of limbo, stranded in Thailand

Fri Oct 9, 2015 7:45pm EDT
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By Alisa Tang

RATTAPHUM, Thailand (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The strapping 23-year-old Rohingya Muslim was matter of fact as he described being forced onto a boat in Myanmar for a tortuous two-month-long journey, beaten and kicked by traffickers as he watched scores die of starvation and thirst along the way.

He said he was abandoned in May in a jungle camp in Thailand's deep south near the Malaysian border, discovered and rescued a few hours later by Thai police and taken to a shelter tucked away amid tropical vegetation and rubber plantations.

But his calm demeanor cracked when he spoke about his wife and one-year-old daughter.

On many evenings in this compound of cement buildings that has become home to 66 male Rohingya trafficking victims from Myanmar and 19 from Bangladesh, the man cried, homesick.

Late last month, the shelter staff took pity on him, granting him a five-minute phone call to his home in Sittwe in western Myanmar's Rakhine state.

"I could hear my baby crying," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation under the wary gaze of the shelter director, who monitored the interview he had reluctantly permitted with the condition that the man's identity was protected.

"I want to go home. I miss them," the Rohingya man added, falling silent and bending over as he crumpled in sadness.

Swept up by trafficking rings taking advantage of the tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence and apartheid-like conditions in Myanmar, this man may never go back home.   Continued...

The hands of a Rohingya victim of trafficking are seen as he listens to questions during an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation at a temporary shelter in Hat Yai, Songkla, Thailand, September 22, 2015. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha