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Rohingya allege more Thai abuse
Rohingya migrants found adrift off Indonesia tell of beatings by the Thai military.
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2009 00:22 GMT
The Rohingya refugees held in Indonesia say they were severely beaten by the Thai military

Fresh allegations have surfaced of abuses allegedly carried out by the Thai army against Rohingya boat people fleeing Myanmar.
 
A group of almost 200 Rohingya, currently in the Indonesian province of Aceh, have told Al Jazeera how they were severely beaten after their boat was boarded by the Thai military last month.

Speaking from an Aceh hospital one of the group, Noor Mohamad, a Muslim imam from western Myanmar, told Al Jazeera that his journey started early in December last year when five boats with 585 Rohingya set off from Myanmar in search of for a better life.
 
The refugees were soon captured and beaten by Myanmar navy, he said, but they let them go and even supplied them with fuel and a compass, ordering them to never return.

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority group who face persecution in Myanmar, whose military government does not recognise them as citizens.

Set adrift

Twelve days later, Noor Mohamad said, his group arrived in Thailand.

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Rohingya boat people in Indonesia recount abuse

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But rather than finding refuge when they encountered the Thai military they were beaten even more severely before being returned to their boats and set adrift.

"They [the Myanmar authorities] used steel rods and thick plastic pipes with metal tips ... but the Thai authorities beat us much worse," Noor Mohamad said.

"I was beaten over my whole body."

They were found by fishermen three weeks later off the Indonesian coast.

The case is the latest in a string of allegations of abuses carried out by Thai authorities against Rohingya boat people that have come to light in recent weeks.

Other cases have seen the Thai army accused of forcing boatloads of Rohingya to return to sea without food and fuel; or abandoned far off shore with their boat's engines disabled or removed.

Reports from survivors who washed up on India's Andaman islands and others in northwest Indonesia suggest hundreds may have died.

Human rights groups accuse the Thai military of carrying out a secret and systematic campaign against the Rohingya, because of suspicions they may be involved with Muslim separatist fighters in Thailand's south.

Thai denials

The Thai military and government have rejected the charges, and they also deny the Rohingya face persecution in their country of origin.

"As for the serious allegations, including that various forms of mistreatment were inflicted, this must be categorically denied as having no place in policy and procedures," the Thai foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The Rohingya say they were beaten first by the Myanmar navy, then by the Thai army
"Nevertheless, should concrete evidence be presented, the Thai government would take a serious look into such cases and further verification would be carried out."

Noor Mohamad said he and 192 others drifted at sea for three weeks when Indonesian fishermen found them.

By then 10 to 15 people on his boat had collapsed he said.

"Indonesian authorities treated us very well. They gave us clothes and food," he told Al Jazeera.

But he said he had no idea what would happen to him and the rest of the group and he fears they may be deported back to Myanmar.

"We heard we will be sent back to Myanmar," he said. "In that case we will ask the Indonesians to kill us. It's better we die in the hands of Muslims."

Source:
Al Jazeera
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