Thai navy accused of forcing boat people back to sea

The big story in Thailand at the moment involves accusations that the Thai navy intercepted hundreds of boat people and forced them back out to sea with little food or water. The refugees were Rohingya — Muslims from Western Myanmar (Burma).

Here’s a recent AFP story: “Thailand accused of returning asylum-seekers to sea to die

PORT BLAIR, India (AFP) — India said Sunday that hundreds of people were missing at sea, believed to be part of a wave of boat people allegedly dragged out to the middle of the ocean by Thailand and left to die.

Thailand has denied the accusations, but accounts of survivors and the latest reports from the Indian coast guard have piled the pressure on Bangkok, and the Thai government said it would meet rights groups on Monday.

The Thai navy is accused of detaining the migrants, from a Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar, after they washed up on the Thai coast — and then towing them to sea and leaving them to their fate.

India’s coast guard said Sunday it had rescued hundreds of the refugees from the Rohingya ethnic group, who live along the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh, but that hundreds more were feared lost.

The BBC has more on the story, which it seems was broken in the Western press by the New York Times on Jan. 17. And the story received a lot of coverage in yesterday’s Bangkok Post. The print edition of today’s Post has a story saying that Thai PM Abhisit will meet today with human rights groups, but I don’t see the story on their site. There’s also a Nation story, but it’s difficult to follow. Bangkok Pundit has more info.

And, finally, here’s some background info on the Rohingya people.

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