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Thailand To Turn Away Myanmar Boat People: Official
Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/1250756/1/.html
Source Date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Country: Thailand
Created: Jan 28, 2013

BANGKOK: Thailand will turn away any more Rohingya boat people from neighbouring Myanmar who try to land on its shores, a top official said on Monday after an influx of refugees fleeing sectarian unrest.

"The Thai navy from now on will be stricter with them and will no longer allow them to land," National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabutr told AFP.

"If we find them, we will provide them with food, water and necessities so they can go to their destinations," he added.

An explosion of tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine since June 2012 has triggered a huge exodus of Muslim Rohingya, mostly heading for Malaysia.

More than 1,000 have been detained by Thailand after landing on its shores.

Paradorn said the existing detainees would be allowed to stay in Thailand for six months at immigration centres or local police stations while the government works with the UN refugee agency to find third countries willing to accept them.

The tougher stance comes a week after Thai authorities said they were investigating allegations that army officials were involved in the trafficking of Rohingya boat people.

Described by the UN as among the most persecuted minority groups in the world, Rohingya have for years trickled abroad to neighbouring Bangladesh and, increasingly, to Malaysia.

Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.

The UN estimates that about 13,000 boat people fled Myanmar and Bangladesh in 2012, with some dying during the perilous sea voyage. Thailand has been criticised in the past for pushing Rohingya back out to sea.

- AFP/xq
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