Bangkok (AsiaNews) - "Men are forced to take laxatives before getting on the boats, in order to weaken them and prevent them from rebelling, fighting or resisting. Women, if good-looking, are raped several times until they reach their final destination. " The boats are "overcrowded" and if someone dares to "move a hand or a foot, is brutally beaten by the guards," or "threatened at gunpoint with being thrown overboard".
This is the story of Muhummed Choriff, a young Rohingya - a Muslim minority in Myanmar persecuted and deprived of the right of citizenship - of just 16 years, a native of Rakhine State in Myanmar. "Everyone suffers from malnutrition - he added - many are sick and those who do not resist, die and are thrown into the water" by the traffickers.
He is one of thousands of desperate people who have left Burma to escape persecution, stepping onto one of the hundreds of boats that are trafficking desperate people on the Andaman seas in recent weeks. His testimony was collected for AsiaNews by Siwawong Sukthawee, activist and coordinator of a network of associations that care for these desperate people, fighting against trafficking in human lives in the Asian country.
Muhummed Choriff said he was left "with other 600 people aboard a boat", near the Indonesian territorial waters "and without any guidance on board because the captain and the other crew members had fled. "No one knew how to control it – he adds - so we started screaming, we were desperate. Some, including myself, were lucky enough to be able to swim to the shore. " For this journey of despair with an uncle in Malaysia the final goal, the young man’s family paid 30 thousand baht (about 750 euro).
Over the past 10 days, more than 3 thousand people, mostly from the former Burma, along with migrant workers from Bangladesh, have been rescued in the Andaman Sea and off the coast of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The crisis deepened with the crackdown imposed by Thailand – the real hub for human trafficking - after the discovery of a mass grave near the border with Malaysia in which dozens of Rohingya corpses were buried. But it reached breaking point following the push back policy adopted by Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.
Siwawong Sukthawee reports that "the boats" before starting "must wait for the smugglers to have collected at least 600 Rohingya refugees" or have reached "full capacity". Some can wait "for days" before the number is reached; with those waiting being provided "only one meal a day, a handful of rice and salt," with only rain water to drink.
The Thai activist tells the story of a woman, one of many young Rohingyas who embarked on the desperate journey pregnant along with her three year old daughter. "We lived in a refugee camp in Myanmar – says the Rohingya migrant - because my house was set on fire. I collected all the money available, with the hope of reaching my husband in Malaysia". Stopped in Thailand for "illegal entry" and treated as a clandestine, the woman with her daughter was locked in a reception center. "I pray and hope - she concludes – that one day our children will be able to see their father".
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has announced Thailand will begin providing shelter and first asylum to refugees. However, it is a short-term solution. The real task is finding a permanent solution which requires coordination between governments in the region. In fact, on May 29 Bangkok will host an emergency summit of Asean countries, expanded to other nations involved in the trafficking ring.
According to sources from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) in the first quarter of 2015 at least 25 thousand Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrant workers have illegally entered Thailand, victims of human traffickers. Double the number over the same period last year.