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New wave of Rohingya arrive in Thailand

From Kocha Olarn, CNN
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Crushing dreams of refugees
  • The new arrival of refugees will test Thailand's pledge to treat them humanely
  • Two years ago Thailand was accused of treating Rohingya unfairly
  • The new group of Rohingya will probably be sent back to their country, an official said
  • Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- Authorities in Thailand were trying Tuesday to deal with a new group of 67 members of an ethnic Muslim minority that arrived in a boat claiming that they were the victims of persecution.

The new group adds to a recent wave of Rohingya who have recently arrived in southern Thailand, claiming that they have been persecuted in Myanmar.

Their arrival could test Bangkok's international pledges to treat the Rohingya humanely, two years after Thailand faced international condemnation over secret policies of towing Rohingya back out to sea in unpowered boats with little food and water.

The group of 67 Rohingya who arrived Sunday are the second group to come ashore in the last few days. Another group of 91 Rohingya arrived Saturday.

The second group was being held at a police station in Thailand's Satun Province, authorities said.

"I can be anywhere, except in Myanmar, if I went back I would be dead," said Rohingya Noori Shalom, during a phone interview from the police station.

He said he came from the Myanmar town of Mondul, leaving his wife and two children behind to find a better life.

He promised his family that, if things went well, he would bring them to the new home he found.

Another person there was 10-year-old Muhammad Fariq, who said he paid 40,000 Kyat to board the boat. He said he drifted for 15 days onboard, hoping to get to Malaysia, a Muslim country where he could find a job.

The latest group of Rohingya were in limbo Tuesday, waiting for Thai authorities to determine their fate.

Police Col. Chayawut Chansomboon, Satun immigration superintendent, said both groups will probably be returned to their country.

Chayawut said sending them back to Myanmar is difficult practice because they are not recognized by Myanmar and it makes the repatriation process complicated.

There are now over a thousand of Rohingya still staying at a local immigration office due to these complications, he said.

"We are well aware of basic human rights and we are providing them all basic humanitarian needs, foods and shelters," he said.

The issue of Rohingya erupted into controversy in 2009, when the Thai military was accused of intercepting boatloads of Rohingya, sabotaging their vessels and abandoning them at sea.

Thailand eventually acknowledged such actions, after initial denials.