Thai Police Rescue Hundreds of Rohingya in Raid on Suspected Traffickers’ Camp

Thailand, Rohingya, Myanmar, Burma, Malaysia, Human trafficking, boat people, camp

A Thailand Immigration Police van carries a group of Rohingya Muslims to a port outside Ranong city Oct. 30. (Photo: Reuters)

BANGKOK — Thai police have rescued hundreds of Rohingya Muslims from a remote camp in a raid prompted by a Reuters investigation into human trafficking, police officials said on Monday.

Police detained 531 men, women and children in Sunday’s raid at a camp near the town of Sadao in the southern province of Songkhla, on a well-established route for human smugglers near Thailand’s border with Malaysia. It was the first raid on illegal Rohingya smuggling camps since Jan. 9, 2013.

The police said they were following up on a Dec. 5 Reuters report that Rohingya were held hostage in camps hidden near the border with Malaysia until relatives pay ransoms to release them. Some were beaten and killed.

The Rohingya are mostly stateless Muslims from Burma. Deadly clashes between Rohingya and ethnic Arakanese Buddhists erupted in Buddhist-majority Burma last year, making 140,000 people homeless, most of them Rohingya.

Since then, tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled from Burma by boat and many arrive off southwest Thailand.

The United Nations and the United States called for an investigation into the Reuters report, based on a two months of research in three countries, that revealed a clandestine policy to remove Rohingya refugees from Thai immigration detention centers and deliver them to human traffickers waiting at sea.

“After Reuters gave us information, we ordered an investigation into the camps,” said Chatchawan Suksomjit, deputy national police chief. He said they captured three suspected ringleaders at the camp, all of them Thai males.

Reuters gave the Thai authorities coordinates to one camp near Sadao which was empty by the time they arrived, but police found another camp nearby.

“From the Reuters report, we received a clue that it was in Kao Roop Chang [village]. But the camp was already moved from there when we found it. We found only an empty camp there. So we investigated more until we found the new camp,” said Colonel Kan Tammakasem, superintendent of immigration in Songkhla.

The plight of the Rohingya illustrates the limits to Burma’s wave of democratic reforms since military rule ended in March 2011. Inside Burma, they face apartheid-like conditions and, according to the United Nations, many forms of “persecution, discrimination and exploitation.”

US Scrutiny

Police are trying to identify the origins of those detained after the raid, not all of whom were Rohingya, said Chatchawan. “We are interviewing all of them to see if they are victims of human trafficking,” he said.

They are being kept at an immigration detention center in Songkhla.

“We have to interview them and proceed according to Thai immigration laws,” he said. “It will depend on whether they want to go back. If they are willing we will send them back as we have done before.”

Last year, Thailand implemented a secretive policy to deport the Rohingya.

These deportations delivered many Rohingya back into the hands of smuggling networks and human traffickers, who in some cases ferried them back to Thailand’s secret border camps, reported Reuters.

The raid comes as the US State Department is finalizing its research for its next Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report, due in June, which ranks countries on their counter-trafficking performance.

Thailand is Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy and a close US ally, but has a poor record in fighting trafficking and faces a possible downgrade to the report’s lowest rank, putting it at risk of US sanctions and potentially placing it on a par with North Korea and Iran.

Nine people were arrested in Thailand in relation to Rohingya smuggling in 2013, including two government officials, according to police data, but none of the arrests has led to convictions.

5 Responses to Thai Police Rescue Hundreds of Rohingya in Raid on Suspected Traffickers’ Camp

  1. chances are the majority are from Bangladesh and not Myanmar – it appears most are unable to speak any Burmese at all, even with the Yakhine accent. Passing themselves off as Rohingyas.

  2. “Police are trying to identify the origins of those detained after the raid, not all of whom were Rohingya, said Chatchawan” – does it confirm that there are bengalis from bangladesh with those detained? If so, this incident should also be tallied with large number of “Rohingya” asylum seekers around the world, how many of them are ‘rohingya’ and how many ‘bangladeshi’. Time and again it has been said in Burma that these rohingyas are bengali – and again and again the biased section of the western media have denied that these rohingyas are not bengalis, as the rohingyas themselves also demand. But in many European countries and in even as far as Australia, rohingya asylum seekers have heavily been joined by bangladeshi bengalis. The role of bangladeshi people smugglers should also be brought to light and if possible pressure created to stop this illegal human trafficking across the borders, aimed at exporting bengali illegal persons across the world.

  3. The smugglers include Rohingya, Thais and Thai policemen. It has been going on for many years. It just did not start from the violence in Arakan State two years ago. The so-called boat people are Bengali people. Too crowded Bangladesh is abandoned by Bangladeshi(Bengali) for better life. Many flocked into Arakan State of Myanmar, and many are heading to Malaysia. Many robbers and rapists in Malaysia are these people. They rob and kill for even a cell phone. Now, the Thai police is acting like they never knew it before. Shame on them too. The Thai officials have been part of these human smuggling rings for the past many years. We know it very well.

  4. Should we make language as Barometer- measurement for fixing Burmese national. I had been to Aka national villages from Shan state whose houses were on hill tops. They could not speak Burmese language. Should we fix them as foreigners. From 1982 onward Muslims in Maungdaw, Buthidaung have been living in big jail. They could not move one place to another, marriage restrictions and educations etc. If they could not go to school, how can they learn Burmese language. There are lot of Rakhine – Bengladeshi citizen who can speaks Rakhine language. Should we accept them as Burmese citizen. Language only should not be a criteria to segregate one national

  5. Thai police got the location coordinates of the slave camp from Reuters. That says it all, really. Checking the Bangkok Post website today, I see no mention of this story. Not surprising, considering we’ve all known about the Slave Markets of Sadao [not to mention the slave sorting centres of the islands on the Andaman side] for around a decade and not a single official has been prosecuted. Tier 3 on the US trafficking report is a no-brainer for Thailand. They already know they’re headed there. They also know there will be zero trade consequences. Business as usual on planet Asia and the slave trade goes on.

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