A year ago, the world was shocked by reports of Rohingya refugees being beaten and tortured by Thai soldiers. On 20 January 2009, the head of the Thai military promised an investigation into the alleged abuses. One year later, the public is still waiting for the facts to emerge.
‘We should remind the government about this promised investigation,' said Chris Lewa of the Arakan Rohingya National Organization, which advocates for the rights of the Rohingya.
The Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim group, were fleeing persecution in Burma, which does not consider them citizens. But rather than finding asylum in Thailand, they were abused and set adrift in motor-less boats. Hundreds reportedly died at sea.
On 27 January 2009, after the scandal had already made headlines around the world, the Thai navy brought ashore another 78 Rohingya and put them in a detention centre in Ranong, a town on the southern coast.
Officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visited the detention centre in January and February last year, but were refused further access, according to Kitty McKinsey, a UNHCR spokesperson.
After two of the Rohingya died in custody the group was transferred to a detention centre in Bangkok, where they remain today. Along with them are seven men whose nationality remains unclear.
Meanwhile, given that the detainees are accused of nothing other than having entered Thai waters without the necessary documentation, MRG calls for their immediate release and for their asylum claims to be considered.