World Bulletin / News Desk
Thailand has no plans to open a camp for boat people and would continue its policy of deporting them, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said as Indonesia follows Thai stance, concidering Rohingyas as economic migrants.
Many of Rohingyas told that they were abused and illegally detained in Burma and would face the death if they turn back.
Rahmat bin Mohammad Daud Yullha, 37, told Reuters in broken Malay he had been jailed for praying in a mosque in Myanmar.
"Thailand has no intention of opening any refugee camp. We cannot afford carrying the burden of taking care of another 200,000-300,000 people," Suthep, who oversees national security, said.
The plight of Myanmar's estimated 800,000 Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority from the former Burma's northwest, has been in the headlines since reports of serial abuse of the migrants by the Thai military, reported Reuters.
Rickety wooden boats crowded with hundreds of Rohingya have reached Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in the last two months, the latest in an annual trickle of people fleeing by sea in search of better lives.
Indonesia is questioning 198 Rohingya after finding them floating in a boat off the coast of Aceh this week after 21 days at sea.
Despite pleas from some of the men that they faced death if sent back to Myanmar, Jakarta has said so far it considers them economic migrants who would be deported.
Last month, the Thai army admitted towing hundreds far out to sea before abandoning them.
Of 1,000 Rohingya given such treatment since early December, 550 are thought to have drowned.
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 230,000 Rohingya now live a precarious, stateless existence in Bangladesh, having fled decades of abuse and harassment at the hands of Myanmar's Buddhist military rulers.
No acceptation in Thailand, Indonesia
Thailand's treatment of the Rohingyas, an oppressed Muslim minority from mainly Buddhist Myanmar, has been widely condemned as evidence emerges that hundreds were rounded up by the Thai military and towed out to sea.
Neither Thailand's chief government spokesman nor the Thai Foreign Ministry had any immediate response to the latest allegations of abuse.
The plight of Myanmar's estimated 800,000 Rohingya has been in the headlines since reports of abuse by the Thai military against the boat people.
A number of boat people in Indonesia have previously made claims to Reuters and other media they were mistreated while in Thailand.
Jakarta has also said it considers the boat people economic migrants who should be deported under Indonesian law although some of Rohingyas would face death in Myanmar.
"We will not let any human rights violation happen to them," said Indonesia's foreign ministry spokesman, Teuku Faizasyah.
No safe in Burma
Two men from among 198 Rohingyas found off Indonesia this week said they had been rounded up in Thailand, beaten and cast adrift in a rickety, engineless boat by Thai authorities.
Rahmat bin Mohammad Daud Yullha said that he had been jailed for praying in a mosque in Myanmar.
"I was caught and detained for three months. They beat me every day. Everyday (I) only drunk a gulp of water," said Yullha, who said he was a baker with a wife and three children at home.
"I beg to stay in Indonesia. I want to bring my kids and wife. Instead of going back to Burma, I'd rather be shot in Indonesia. I want to die in the hands of the Muslims," he said.
He said he was held and detained on a boat on an island in Mae Sok in the southern Thai province of Ranong.
"Everyday they added ten people until our boat was full and we were towed to the open sea and set adrift," Yullha said.
Nurullah, 20, another of the men in the boatload found on Monday, said Thai authorities had detained him two weeks after he had arrived in Thailand, where he had found work as a fisherman.
Nurullah, who also said he was from a village in Myanmar, used hand signals and a few words of English to tell his story to reporters, at times on the brink of tears.
He said he was a biology teacher, and that he left Myanmar because there were no jobs. Pointing to scars on his back and hand, he said he was beaten, put in an engineless boat with about 200 other people, and set adrift by the Thai authorities.
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"It's hard," he said. "I (am) afraid (for) my mother and sisters. I don't know about them," he said.
He and about 70 others from the boat are being treated in hospital for dehydration and exhaustion.
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 230,000 Rohingya now live in Bangladesh, having fled northwest Myanmar after decades of abuse and harassment at the hands of its military rulers.