09/07/2022, 13.52
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People smugglers dump Rohingya on Koh Gluay Island

by Steve Suwannarat

Fishermen rescued 10 refugees, while Thailand’s Coast Guard found another 41. The refugees, who were probably abandoned on their way to Malaysia, risk abduction and exploitation. The exodus from Myanmar and refugee camps in Bangladesh seems to have regained momentum in recent months.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Some 51 ethnic Rohingya castaways have been found in the last few hours off the southern coast of Thailand.

A dozen, spotted at sea in front of the island of Koh Bulone, were rescued by fishermen, while another 41 were later found by the Thai Coast Guard on Koh Gluay Island and taken to the mainland.

It is unclear whether the two groups were on board the same boat that, according to some witnesses, broke during a storm at sea. It has not yet been established whether they come from Rakhine State (Arakan) in Myanmar or Bangladesh.

As the previous mass landing of some 60 Rohingya on 4 June indicates, Thailand remains a point of transit and sometimes a rest area for Rohingya fleeing their country after they became the victim of a wave of persecution in August 2017, as well as for those who prefer a long and perilous sea journey to escape a situation without a future in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

For many of them, Malaysia remains the point of destination, but the human traffickers who often manage their escape and the conditions at sea many times often force them to land on the Thai coast, where they risk being abducted for ransom and exploited if they do not pay for their release.

Thai authorities, who have been criticised in the past for collusion with smugglers, have tried more recently to restore their image and credibility and uphold the law.

In the latest case, they believe the castaways are only some of the passengers of a ship now hiding among the Thai islands in the Andaman Sea with the rest of the human cargo.

This is a sign of how migration is picking up after the military coup in Myanmar on 1 February 2021, and how attempts by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to broker a deal  with Myanmar’s military over almost a million refugees in Bangladesh have proven unsatisfactory.

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