Friday, March 15, 2013
UN probes Rohingya shooting claim
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has asked the Thai government to verify recent reports that a Rohingya boat was towed out from Thai waters, and that shots were fired during the interception.
UNHCR officials have met with survivors of an incident reported in Phangnga province, cross-checked their accounts with other sources and established that the incident is the same one reported by boat people who arrived in Aceh, Indonesia on Feb 26.
Those interviewed in both countries said that they left their village in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state around Feb 5. 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 the interception, but the accounts are conflicting as to whether these were warning shots or were 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.
The UN refugee agency said it was gravely concerned that people fleeing unrest could have been turned away and exposed to further distress in their search for safety.
On Wednesday, the Thai navy rejected a report by New York-based Human Rights Watch that its sailors had shot Rohingya asylum seekers.