02/04/2009, 00.00
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Bangkok denies mistreatment allegations by Rohingya refugees

Thailand’s foreign minister wants refugee allegations checked; tells media to wait the results of Indonesian government investigation. Refugees are also threatened by international human traffickers.
Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thailand rejected accusations that it has mistreated Rohingya refugees. Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said that eyewitness accounts by the 198 refugees rescued off the coast of Thailand on Monday “have not yet been verified.” Any charges will “have to wait for an official investigation of the Indonesian government,” he said. The minister’s statement came after an outcry in the international media.

Found off the coast of Aceh, Rohingya refugees were rescued by Indonesian fishermen who said the former had wounds caused by Thai soldiers who abandoned them in the open sea after mistreating them.

Mr Kasit said that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) met 12 other Rohingya boat people detained in Ranong, Thailand and that his government was in talks with the United Nations to decide their fate.

Rohingya refugees also face the danger of international human trafficking. Some of them have been bought by Thailand-based agents who act as intermediaries between refugees and buyers.

The luckiest ones are “sold” to ethnic Rohingya in Thailand who buy them for a hefty price in order to free them and give them work.

Many others are instead sent to Malaysia, Indonesia or other parts of Thailand where they are forced to work for their owners.

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