After Myanmar violence, almost 6,000 Rohingyas arrive in Thailand

Thu Feb 7, 2013 4:05am EST
 

By Amy Sawitta Lefevre

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Nearly 6,000 Rohingya Muslims have arrived in Thailand since October, when sectarian violence flared in Myanmar's western Rakhine state and displaced tens of thousands of people, a top Thai security agency said on Thursday

Entire communities of Rohingyas are languishing in makeshift camps in Myanmar, without access to healthcare or clean water, according to the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) aid group, while Thailand has promised humane treatment for the 5,899 who have arrived on its shores.

"Those detained will continue to be treated as illegal and given only basic care in line with humanitarian practices," said Dittaporn Sasamit, a spokesman for Thailand's Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

"The Foreign Ministry is negotiating with other countries to take them on and is seeking (Myanmar) citizenship papers for them so they can move on," he said.

Myanmar's reformist government has been criticized for its treatment of Rohingyas and its poor handling of clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in June and October. The Rohingyas came off worst in a statewide spree of machete and arson attacks.

Many Rohingyas arrived in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar as laborers from what is now Bangladesh under British rule in the 19th century, grounds the government uses to deny them citizenship.

Most of the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar are regarded by authorities as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which does not recognize them either. The United Nations has referred to them as "virtually friendless".

Thousands of Rohingyas flee from Myanmar each year on rickety boats seeking refuge and jobs in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, but the number has swelled since the unrest.   Continued...

 
A policeman stands guard near a group of Rohingya people living in Thailand holding signs as they protest in front of Myanmar's embassy in Bangkok, during Myanmar's President Thein Sein visit to Thailand July 23, 2012. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom