U.N., U.S. call for investigations into Thai trafficking of Rohingya

U.N., U.S. call for investigations into Thai trafficking of Rohingya
# 07 December 2013 00:29 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. The United Nations and the United States called Friday for investigations into the findings of a Reuters report that Thai immigration officials moved Myanmar refugees into human trafficking rings, APA reports quoting Reuters.

The report, published on Thursday and based on a two-month investigation in three countries, revealed a clandestine policy to remove Rohingya refugees from Thailand's immigration detention centers and deliver them to human traffickers waiting at sea. The Rohingya, stateless Muslims from Myanmar, are then transported across southern Thailand and held hostage in camps hidden near the border with Malaysia until relatives pay ransoms to release them, according to the Reuters report. Some are beaten and some are killed.

"These allegations need to be investigated urgently," U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Vivian Tan said in a statement. "We have consistently asked countries in the region to provide temporary protection, including protection against abuse and exploitation." Washington issued a similar call hours later. "We are aware of reports alleging that Thai officials have been involved in selling Rohingya migrants to human traffickers," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. "We urge the Thai government to conduct a serious and transparent investigation into the matter."

"We remain deeply concerned about the safety of and humanitarian conditions for vulnerable communities in Burma, including refugees and asylum seekers on Burma's borders and elsewhere in the region," Harf added. Major General Chatchawal of the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok was quoted in the Reuters report saying that there was an unofficial policy to deport the Rohingya to Myanmar. He called this "a natural way or option two." But he said the Rohingya signed statements in which they agree they want to return to Myanmar. These statements, however, were at times produced in the absence of a Rohingya language translator, Reuters found.

"The detainees also need to be informed about their options in a language they understand," said Tan, the U.N. spokeswoman. "Any decision to leave must be voluntary, and those who choose to leave must be protected against abuse and exploitation by smugglers."

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