All of about 1,300 Rohingya people who were detained in immigration detention centres and shelters across Thailand since January last year were deported to Burma three months ago, Thailand’s Immigration Bureau commissioner Pharnu Kerdlarpphon says.
Pol Lt Gen Pharnu told the Bangkok Post the Rohingya were deported with the cooperation of Thai and Burmese authorities.
Representatives of non-government organisations working on protecting the rights of minorities were also invited to witness each deportation.
Pol Lt Gen Pharnu said provincial immigration officers took detained Rohingya to Ranong Immigration Office before accompanying them to get on boats, taking them to Koh Son in Burma, a neighbouring province of Ranong. The deportation process ended three months ago.
‘’We deported them under an international principle but after each deportation we don’t have a chance of knowing where they will be taken,’’ he said.
Pol Lt Gen Pharnu insisted both Thai and Burmese authorities made the process of the deportation clear and straightforward.
Burmese authorities recorded the number of Rohingya people deported one after another to Burma, officially known as Myanmar, and the two countries had evidence of each deportation.
Pol Lt Gen Pharnu said the immigration officers and the government took good care of the Rohingya. They were offered humanitarian assistance during their detention.
Doctors from the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) had travelled to check their physical health almost every week. If they were severely ill, they would be sent to receive medical treatment at local hospitals. He said that among the 1,300 Rohingya, eight people died of various diseases, and one of them a blood infection.
Meanwhile, Ismael Madadam, the chairman of a network to help Rohingya in Thailand, said five Rohingya men were pronounced dead while receiving medication at Hat Yai Hospital between 30 January 30 and 4 February.
Mr Isamael said the five Rohingya were among 500 Rohingya who had entered Songkhla last month to sneak into Malaysia. They died of various diseases.
Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sake Wannamethee said while the Rohingya were deported, no representatives from the ministry were present during the process.
Mr Sake said the deportations were carried out by the Immigration Bureau and the National Security Council.
However, Thailand’s representative for Human Rights Watch Sunai Pasuk said he was concerned over the safety of Rohingya people deported to Burma because, as far as he knew, Burma had never recognised them as Burmese citizens.
He said he believed the deportation was in breach of a customary international law as Thai authorities know these Rohingya might encounter dangerous situations in Burma but they deported them anyway.
The government had reported that about 1,300 Rohingya had arrived in Thailand since January last year but in fact many more were believed to have made the journey during that time.
These Rohingya were arrested and treated as illegal migrants. Shortly after their arrests, mostly in southern provinces, they were sent to be detained at immigration detention centres and shelters, mostly in the southern provinces as well as other places in Kanchanaburi, Tak, Rayong, and Ubon Ratchathani.
They told Thai authorities they wanted to travel on boats to work in Malaysia and hoped to travel further to Australia.