UN voices concern at reports of shooting of Rohingya boat people by Thai Navy

Some of those risking their lives on high seas voyages set off from waterways like this one in Rakhine state, Myanmar. Photo: UNHCR/V. Tan

15 March 2013 – The United Nations human rights office today voiced concern at reports that the Thai Navy shot dead at least two Rohingya asylum-seekers who fled northern Myanmar by boat.

According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the shooting allegedly took place on 22 February while the Navy was transferring around 130 people from the boat they had arrived in into smaller boats.

The Office noted that the Prime Minister of Thailand has said to the media that the Government is investigating the incident.

�We urge the Government of Thailand to ensure that the investigation into these allegations is full, prompt and impartial, and that anyone who has committed a crime during this incident is brought to justice,� OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told a news conference in Geneva.

�We further urge Thailand, along with other countries in the region, to consider alternatives to the �help-on� policy, which leads to deaths at sea, and to find alternatives to detaining migrants and asylum-seekers, including children, in accordance with its international human rights obligations.�

Several waves of clashes in Myanmar�s Rakhine state between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims � the first of which occurred in June last year � have left 115,000 people displaced, as well as more than 100 dead, according to UN estimates.

OHCHR called on the Government of Myanmar to address the root cause of the discrimination and violence in Rakhine state, adding that a regional response is needed to address the multiple dimensions of the current crisis.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also spoke out about the incident, saying it has asked the Thai Government to verify the reports.

�UNHCR is gravely concerned that people fleeing unrest could have been turned away and exposed to further distress in their search for safety. We are seeking access to such boats intercepted in the high seas,� said spokesperson Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba.

According to the agency, thousands of people from Rakhine have boarded smugglers� boats to seek safety and stability elsewhere in the region.

�More than 7,000 people are estimated to have taken this dangerous voyage in the first two months of this year, though the clandestine nature of these movements makes it difficult to know the real scale of the movements,� Ms. Lejeune-Kaba said at the news conference. The agency appealed to all States in the region to keep their borders open to people fleeing persecution.


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Over 2,000 people flee Myanmar following latest bout of violence in Rakhine state – UN

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