PHUKET: The boatpeople families who arrived on Phuket earlier this week after 13 days on the water are already back at sea in another boat, a senior army officer said today.
Phuketwan has also confirmed through independent sources the departure of the 73 men, women and children from the Thai-Burma port of Ranong.(.JANUARY 2013 A group of Rohingya boatpeople who ran out of fuel as they passed Phuket on a voyage seeking a new life were being trucked back towards Burma in tears this afternoon.Once the formalities of their expulsion were concluded, the 73 adults and children boarded two trucks and left Phuket Immigration headquarters in Phuket City at 4pm.)
Colonel Manat Kongpan, who heads Thailand’s Internal Security Operations Command, Fourth Region, said today the families trucked off Phuket yesterday afternoon had already been placed on another vessel and ”helped on.”
The Thai military were finding women and children with increasing regularity on the boats of Rohingya, he said.
Colonel Manat said the Thai military were intercepting ”two or three” vessels each week. About 3000 people had been apprehended since this ”sailing season” began in October, he said.
Activists who keep track of departures from Bangladesh and Burma estimate the number of Rohingya who have put to sea since October at more than 10,000.
Colonel Manat said that the present ”help on” policy in Thailand was designed to assist would-be refugees from Burma reach ”a third country.”
”We treat them well,” he said. ”We provide them with the best possible boats and provide food, water and fuel.”
Human Rights Watch made a last minute plea today to the Thai Government to prevent the families who came ashore on Phuket from being deported.
An HRW spokesman said this afternoon that they received a positive response from the Government.
However, Phuketwan confirmed through Colonel Manat and other sources today that the Phuket boat families are back on the Andaman Sea.