CNN has obtained new photos and other information that seem to substantiate claims that the Thai military mistreated Burmese refugees. One image (see the CNN link below) shows what appears to be a Thai navy vessel dragging a boatload of the men out into open water, where their craft was cut adrift.
CNN‘s Dan Rivers: “Probe questions fate of refugees in Thailand”
Bedraggled, hungry and dazed, the refugees arrived on the shores of Thailand after fleeing one of the most repressive governments in the world — the hard-line military regime in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
But a CNN investigation has uncovered evidence that for hundreds of Rohingya refugees — members of a Muslim minority group — abuse and abandonment at sea were what awaited them in Thailand, at the hands of Thai authorities.
Extraordinary photos obtained by CNN from someone directly involved in the Thai operation show refugees on their rickety boats being towed out to sea, cut loose and abandoned.
One photo shows the Thai army towing a boatload of some 190 refugees far out to sea.
For days, accusations have been carried in several regional papers that the Thai army has been systematically towing boat-loads of Rohingya refugees far out to sea and setting them adrift.
The army denied it, and the Thai government has launched an inquiry.
CNN’s investigation — based on accounts from tourists, sources in Thailand and a Rohingya refugee who said he was on a boat towed back out to sea — helps to piece together a picture of survival thwarted by an organized effort not just to repel arriving refugees, but to hold them prisoner on shore, drag them in flimsy boats far out to sea and then abandon them.
Three tourists recently voiced concern to CNN over what they had seen — and in some cases photographed — near Thailand’s tourist areas.
One tourist provided CNN with photos last week of refugees detained by Thai authorities on a beach near a tourist site, with the refugees prone on the sun-bleached sand while guards stood nearby.
“Whenever someone raised their head or moved, they [guards] would strike them with a whip,” said Australian tourist Andrew Catton.
CNN international has also been airing a video package with the photos in question as well as interviews with a Rohingya refugee.