11/11/2014, 00.00
THAILAND - MYANMAR
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Bangkok ready to expel more than 200 Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar

Police sources confirm: "They will be put back on the boats and sent back to the sea, they are the Burmese government’s problem". Human rights activists speak of "massive maritime exodus " in recent weeks. Behind the escape, despair and fear for the future . Many women among the desperate fleeing on haphazard.

Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) - More than 200 Rohingya "boat people" fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar, held in the south of Thailand, will be removed and put back into the sea in the next few days on the orders of the Bangkok government.

Thai police sources confirmed the move regardless of the appeals of various activists and human rights groups, calling for the end of push backs, a policy that puts in danger the lives of refugees. Sanya Prakobphol, senior police officer and head of the district Kapoe (the southern province of Ranong), said that "they will be put back on the boats and sent back to Burma." He adds that once they have crossed the maritime border and are in Burmese waters "it will be their problem."

On 8 November, the Thai coast guard intercepted and arrested on charges of illegal immigration, about 259 members of the Muslim minority, which the Myanmar government does not recognize as their own citizens. The detained group is part of a "massive maritime exodus " taking place in recent weeks, as denounced by activist movements, fueled by despair and fear for the future.

The refugees intercepted off the Thai coast were headed for Malaysia, a largely Muslim country in Southeast Asia, in search of work and a better life. The desperate refugees include several women who wanted to join their husbands who have already migrated.

Since June 2012, the western state of Rakhine has witnessed violent clashes between Burmese Buddhists and Rohingya causing at least 200 deaths and 250 thousand displaced people. According to United Nations estimates, there are still 800 thousand members of the Muslim minority in Myanmar, who the government considers illegal immigrants and who are therefore subject to abuse and persecution.

To date, there are still 140 thousand displaced persons confined in refugee centers which, as according to the Burmese government must accept the classification of Bengali - and obtain citizenship - or remain in the camps "for life".  Within these camps they are deprived of basic rights, such as health care, education or work. The Catholic Church in Burma has intervened on several occasions against the marginalization and neglect faced by the Muslim minority.

 

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