Crackdown forces fearful Rohingya to disperse from Thailand

Crackdown forces fearful Rohingya to disperse from Thailand

Following Thailand's crackdown on human trafficking, the migrant Rohingya community in Ranong has dispersed, a Rohingya living in the province said.

Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr said earlier that the authorities would check to see how long the Rohingya had been living in Thailand, as they had no legal status.

Ameen, a 54-year-old Rohingya living in Ranong for more than 30 years, said in fluent Thai that around 30 Rohingya families had moved out of a village in Tambon Bang Rin in Ranong's Muang district since the authorities began the suppression on human trafficking last year.

Only three Rohingya families remained there, he said.

"The soldiers and police often visit our community to find clues about Rohingya human trafficking. This has made most of the community members fearful of danger to their families. They were also worried that they might be wrongly linked to criminal activity," he said.

Ameen said that some of the families had resettled in Phuket and Hat Yai, where they could find better-paid jobs while some had gone to Malaysia.

When asked how the Rohingya could enter Malaysia, he said that they might have relatives there but he did not know exactly how they crossed the border.

"I myself don't worry about the crackdown because I have done nothing wrong. I have an honest job and I also do not know anything about the recent conflicts in Rakhine state," he said.

He works as a fishing-net braider for local fishermen.

Vacant houses in the community are now occupied by Myanmar nationals, the majority immigrant population in Ranong.

Colonel Suthipong Zhongpakdi, deputy commander of the Internal Security Operations Command in Rayong, said since last October 336 Rohinya and 75 Bangladeshi illegal immigrants had been caught in the province.

However, he said human trafficking in Ranong had been suppressed.

"We have already issued 10 arrest warrants for people who have been involved in human trafficking in Ranong and five of them have been arrested so far," Suthipong said.

Modified fishing boats seized

"We have also seized three modified fishing boats that were used to transport the Rohingya and Bangladeshis to Thailand. Fifteen boats have escaped to neighbouring countries."

He explained that even though Thailand was not the migrants' final destination, the traffickers wanted to save money by transporting people in Thailand to Malaysia, so some Thais had taken advantage of these people.

The last illegal migrants arrived in Ranong's Laem Son National Park last November, he said.

Assistant district officer Santaya Kaewsri said 295 Rohingya and Bangladeshis were caught in that operation, including seven Rohingya traffickers.

"There were only two incidents of illegal immigrants arriving in the district. The first time was in 2007, when 212 people were caught, and the last time was in [November] 2014," Santaya said.

However, this information conflicts with the story of a Laem Son National Park employee who did not want to be named. He said waves of Rohingya migrants had been spotted in the area before the tsunami in 2004.

"They usually came in the late hours in small groups. They were frequently seen during the past few years but currently not many had been spotted," he said.

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