Thailand has no plans to open a camp for boat people arriving from Myanmar and would continue its policy of deporting them, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said yesterday.
Rohingya migrants reaching Thai shores would receive humane treatment, including provision of food and water, but would be deported as illegal aliens, Suthep said.
“Thailand has no intention of opening any refugee camp. We cannot afford carrying the burden of taking care of another 200,000 to 300,000 people,” Suthep said. “They come from Myanmar and that is where they will be deported to.”
The plight of Myanmar’s estimated 800,000 Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority from the country’s northwest, has been in the headlines since reports of abuse of the migrants by the Thai military.
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, but insisted they had food and water and denied reports the boats’ engines were sabotaged.
Of 1,000 Rohingya given such treatment since early December, 550 are thought to have drowned.
Bangkok yesterday denied fresh allegations of cruelty toward boat people from Myanmar after the migrants told of being beaten and dragged out to sea.
“Please wait for the Indonesian official investigation — don’t believe the foreign media reports,” Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said.