Shipwrecked Thailand must stop turning a blind eye to its army’s abuse of Burmese refugees

By any measure of misery, the persecuted Rohingyas of Burma are suffering a particularly wretched fate. Each winter thousands of these Muslim outcasts set sail for Thailand, en route for work or asylum in Malaysia. This winter nearly 1,000 of these refugees have been captured by Thailand’s military and towed back out to sea, where they have been left to their fate in boats that had no engines and that carried little food. Several boats sank.

Accounts from survivors who washed up in Indonesia or on India’s Andaman Islands suggest that 600 of these migrants are dead. Thai denials sound hollow now that photographs have come to light showing the Thai Army towing Rohingya refugees out to sea and abandoning them.

For any government, this is a stain on its human rights record. For Thailand’s Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, who took office last month flaunting a passion for human rights and the rule of law, it is both a crime and a blunder. Not only does it heap fresh abuse on oppressed Rohingyas, it also confirms the fears of those who doubted that Mr Abhisit (who has described the reports of the Rohingyas being cast adrift as “exaggerated”) would be able govern without feeling in debt to the army generals who helped him to gain power. continue

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