Rohingya refugees: Thai PM hears abuse complaints!
Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Thai Prime Minister, has agreed to meet with human rights advocates today, to dicuss exactly what occurred when the Thai military encounterd Rohingya refugees on December 17th last year. The Rohingya refugees claim their hands were tied up, when they were forced into a leaky boat and set adrift , in the Andaman Sea by the Thai army, with only enough rice and water to last the 400 refugees for two days. Yet they drifted for 12 days before the Indian coastguard found them. The coastguard Commander S.P.Sharma said Indian ships have rescued a further 446 Burmese refugees from four boats since Decembr 29th.
The Director of Mahidol University's Research Centre for Peace Building, Gotham Arya, (a participant of today's meeting) says the PM should take disciplinary action against anyone found to have mistreated these boat people. The refugees have complained that they were taken to an island off the the Thai coast and beaten up before being set adrift.
Yet General Songkitti Jaggabataram, the Thai Supreme Commander, denied they could have been mistreated. "I can confirm that the Thai armed forces never use any inhumane treatment" he said.
I myself find this statement somewhat unconvincing!
If the Commander seriously wants to convince others that his soldiers did not set the refugees adrift in a leaky boat, surely the most convincing way would be to inspect the log book, diary or the phone conversations recorded at the time of the alleged incident. Or he could have the leaky boat in question fully inspected. There must be some evidence of how these soldiers were being supervised, and by whom. Someone was responsible for their actions. That person should be specifically called to account for those actions.
Thai authorities do not have a good record of answering such criticism with convincing answers.
The evidence so far is pretty damning. A Hong Kong newspaper published pictures last Thursday of dozens of refugees being beaten by Thai soldiers on an Andaman Sea island, in full view of holiday makers, who took the pictures. here have been four or five incidents during last December of these kinds of complaints against the Thai authorities, by different witnesses. That in itself makes these allegations rather damning.
It is likely that the Prime Minister will use his considerable charm to defuse the situation. I personally doubt very much whether anyone will be properly disciplined. After all, the people who complained were "only" stateless Rohingya refugees!