Rights groups condemn Rohingya abuse

Jan 19, 2009 (DVB), Human rights groups have condemned the Thai authorities' treatment of hundreds of Rohingya who washed up on Thai shores last year and were reportedly towed back to sea.

According to AFP reporting, up to 1000 Rohingya from western Burma washed up on the shores of Thailand's Andaman coast late last year but were towed back to sea by Thai authorities and left with no engines or navigational equipment, and little food.

The Indian coastguard has rescued 446 people so far, but hundreds more remain missing.

Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is due to meet human rights officials today to discuss the allegations, which have been denied by the Thai navy.

Local and international human rights groups have strongly condemned the incident and called for a thorough investigation.

Htoo Chit, director of Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development in Phan-Nga, Thailand, said his organisation is planning to send an open letter on the issue to the Thai government signed by various Thai and Burmese human rights organisations.

"The Thai government needs to respect the rights of international refugees on humanitarian grounds," he said.

Htoo Chit blamed the Burmese government's discrimination against Rohingyas living in Arakan state in Burma for creating the situation.

"These refugees will keep coming here regardless of how much the Thai authorities torture and mistreat them as long as human right abuses continue in places such as Bhuthee Taung and Maung Taw townships," he said.

"During interviews with the Rohingyas over the past three years, they told us they would rather be murdered here than go back to Burma."

Reporting by Aye Nai

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