UN refugee agency concerned about treatment of Rohingya refugees in Thailand

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UNHCR staff speak with recent boat arrivals in a shelter for women and children in Songkhla, southern Thailand.(© UNHCR/V.Tan)

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) is asking authorities in Thailand to verify reports that a boat carrying Rohingya people was towed away, and that shots were fired during the interception.

UNHCR says it has met the survivors of a boat incident reported in Phang Nga in southern Thailand and crossed checked their accounts with other sources.

The agency has established that the incident is the same one reported by the refugees who fled violence in Myanmar and arrived by boat in Aceh, Indonesia on 26 February.

UNHCR spokesperson, Fatoumatah Lejeune-Kaba says the Rohingya people interviewed in both countries said that they left their village in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state around 5 February.

"During the journey lasting three weeks, they ran out of food and water. When intercepted by authorities in Thai waters, they were provided with some assistance and then twice towed from Thai waters out to sea. According to converging accounts, at least three shots were fired during interception, but information is conflicting as to whether these were warning shots or actually aimed at the passengers. Survivors and local fishermen near Phuket said two dead bodies were recovered from the sea, though it was unclear if the cause of death was shooting or drowning." (31")

Fatoumatah Lejeune-Kaba says UNHCR is gravely concerned that people fleeing unrest could have been turned away and exposed to further distress in their search for safety.

She adds that the agency is seeking access to the boats that are intercepted in the high seas.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’26″

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