Secret Camps Holding Rohingya Refugees Must Be Closed Immediately

Press release on International Migrants Day, 18 December 2013

On International Migrants Day the Mekong Migration Network Calls for Urgent Action To Protect Asylum Seekers

The Mekong Migration Network (MMN) strongly condemns the abusive treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar and in Thailand. Members of MMN who represent civil society groups working on labour, women and migration issues in all of the countries of the Mekong subregion, are shocked by the treatment of the Rohingya people.

The Rohingya have suffered racial violence and lack of protection in their homes in Myanmar and when they have fled, they have not been able to access any international procedures to asylum. According to a Special Report by the news agency Reuters entitled “Thailand’s Clandestine Rohingya Policy Uncovered”, there exists a secret policy to “remove Rohingya refugees from Thailand’s immigration detention centers and deliver them to human traffickers waiting at sea.” The Rohingya are then reportedly transported across southern Thailand and held hostage in a series of jungle camps hidden close to the border with Malaysia until relatives pay thousands of dollars as ransom for their release. The humanity of the local Thai people who have provided help to those who managed to escape from the camps stands in stark contrast to the inexcusable neglect by Thai authorities and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Following the release of the Reuters report, the United Nations and the United States have called for the Thai government to conduct a serious and transparent investigation into this matter.

The MMN has investigated Thailand’s use of arrest, detention and deportation in controlling migrant populations from Myanmar, Cambodia and Lao PDR for over 9 years and has continuously expressed concern regarding the lack of transparency and monitoring of the procedures and the mistreatment of migrants during these procedures.1

The MMN thus calls for the following urgent actions:
1. The Royal Thai Government should immediately and permanently close these secret camps and together with civil society groups arrange for the safe shelter of those currently held in the camps.
2. Consultations must be held to offer long term solutions for citizenship and livelihoods. In doing so, we urge authorities to consult with a cross section of Rohyinga representatives to ensure any action taken reflects the needs of the affected communities.
3. The Royal Thai Government in coordination with the UN should conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the alleged secret operation of refugee camps in the jungles and the practice of law enforcement officers colluding with smugglers.
4. The UNHCR should work with the Thai authorities to firstly protect all asylum seekers and secondly to screen all persons of concern for their eligibility for refugee status.
5. ASEAN Inter governmental Commission for Human Rights (AICHR) should independently investigate all cases of racial and ethnic abuse in all countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
6. The Governments of ASEAN should develop clear guidelines and procedures, in line with international standards, for the treatment of asylum seekers, stateless people, refugees and migrants.

For more information, please contact:
Jackie Pollock (+66) (0)8-50395216, [email protected]; or
Reiko Harima (+852) 93692244, [email protected]; or
Omsin Boonlert (+66) (0)869238313, [email protected]