South-east Asian group urged to act tough on Burma over Rohingya refugees, but principle of non-interference means emergency summit could prove short on answers

An emergency international summit called to tackle the migrant boat crisis in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, convening in Bangkok on Friday, may prove long on talk and short on answers if regional countries shy away from coordinated joint action to address the “root causes” in Burma and Bangladesh, diplomats and aid groups say.

The summit’s Thai hosts – who have invited 17 countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, other Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) members and Australia – say they want immediate, collective steps to deal with the recent surge in Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing Burma and economic migrants leaving Bangladesh.

Related: Malaysian police arrest own officers over involvement in migrant death camps

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BANGKOK, 27 May 2015: Thailand’s top-of-the-line tour operators are adamant they are not promoting the controversial Tiger Temple, or Wat Pa Luang Ta Maha Bua temple in Kanchanaburi. They claim to have stopped offering tours to the so-called Tiger Temple for safety and animal rights reasons. The temple was first promoted by a BBC documentary […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 27 May 2015: Loei province in Northeast Thailand will welcome some 300 cyclists from Thailand and around Asia for the “Tour of I-san Loei Classic”  7 June. Organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand in cooperation with Loei Provincial Administration, Life and Living Bikenet, and Nok Air, the event aims to promote green tourism in […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 26 May 2015: Airports of Thailand reports its April data showed a 21% increase in passenger movements at six airports under its management. AoT reported, Monday, that all of its supervised airports recorded 9,229,347 passengers up 21.27% from 7,610,519 visits during the same month last year. Overall aircraft movements also increased by 14.87% from […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 26 May 2015: To increase domestic travel awareness the Tourism Authority of Thailand has organised “One and Only” contest for Thai citizens. Participants can upload their video clip creations, no longer than one minute duration, and adhering to the  theme “Discover Thainess” to www.tourismthailand.org/discoverthainess. Winners and runners-up will be eligible to win cash and accommodation […] Read more...
IT'S a hot, oppressively humid summer evening in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northern capital. British actor Miltos Yerolemou, who plays Syrio Forel, master sword-fighter in Game of Thrones, and will play something, or someone, in the upcoming Star Wars film, has just sat down with me at a wine bar off the city’s recently requisitioned trendy hub, Nimmanhaemin. Read more...
Animal rights activists have long pushed for the closure of Thailand's infamous 'Tiger Temple'. However, a new and unrelated incident may lead to the tourist attraction's closure more than those detractors' critiques ever could: the temple's abbot was mauled by one of the very creatures that he has fought so steadfastly to keep. Read more...
BANGKOK, 25 May 2015: If you dream of becoming a new fresh persona, you have until 31 May to register for Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Thailand Extreme Makeover Session 2. TAT issued its final call over the weekend to boost applications for Season 2 following the huge success of Season 1. Contestants gain a chance […] Read more...
The sophistry of politicians in the face of the Rohingya crisis is astounding. It mainly consists of reality-denial, blame-shifting and creative word play. Now, one Singapore academic has joined in the fray with a supposedly insightful commentary that is really a tragic failure in discursive analysis and a veiled attempt to justify half-hearted responses to the crisis. Read more...
BANGKOK, 22 May 2015: Buoyed by increased spending from Chinese visitors and strong domestic travel the up coming Amazing Thailand Grand Sale should yield better than expected results this year, according to the latest Visa Card assessment. Significant growths were witnessed in both interrnational tourist spend volume and domestic spend through Visa cards at 15% […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 22 May 2015: A real-time test of an electric bus developed by Thailand’s King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology and the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority was introduced, Thursday. The experimental electric bus will serve a route that runs between the KMITL campus to the Ladkrabang Airport Link station. The campus is close to Suvarnabhumi airport. […] Read more...
When Pink Floyd’s vocalist and bassist Roger Waters wrote the 1979 rock classic ”Another Brick in The Wall”, he was thinking about the authoritarian teaching and rote learning he encountered in his school days that would produce, in his opinion, more proverbial bricks in the wall of mental detachment. Read more...
BANGKO, 21 May 2015: Thai tourists behaving badly on Phi Phi Island were caught on camera and exposed on social media according to a Coconut Bangkok report released Wednesday. The report claims photos showed “super-excited Thai tourists ignorant enough to pet a baby shark pulled from the waters of Koh Phi Phi.” It enraged the […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 20 May 2015: Thailand’s inbound tour operators enjoyed a substantial 45% increase in business over the first four months of the year, according to the latest trade figures. Based on Association of Thai Travel Agents’ count, 1,479,256 tourists arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport on member company tour itineraries, January to April. It represented an increase […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 19 May 2015: Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau will work with the Royal Thai Army Tourism Organisation to stimulate domestic events at army camps. The new partnership will promote team building events for domestic corporations at specific army camps around the country. The inaugural launch of  so-called army destination occurred, last week, at the […] Read more...

Supporters shout ‘Yingluck, fight, fight!’ as she arrives at Thailand’s supreme court for corruption trial which could see her jailed for 10 years

Thailand’s ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra insisted on her innocence at the start of a trial on Tuesday that could see her jailed for a decade, part of what observers say is a vendetta against her family.

It is the latest legal move against Yingluck – the sister of the fugitive billionaire former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra – whose administration was toppled in a military coup nearly a year ago.

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Northeastern Thailand rarely features in internationally acclaimed cinema, but the region has been the setting for filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s beautifully allusive and atmospheric films for years. Read more...
BANGKOK, 18 May 2015: Thailand has probably gained entry to the record books by hosting some of the largest ever incentive groups from China. Infinitus China’s mega incentive programme covers almost three weeks ending 26 May in Bangkok and Pattaya with 12,700 staff and sales representatives enjoying a six-night holiday package. The first group arrived […] Read more...
It pays to be welcoming and tolerant - that piece of mundane everyday wisdom especially applies if you’re the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). In one of its few moments of actual good marketing, the TAT launched 'Go Thai. Be Free'. a couple of years ago. The campaign is specifically aimed at lesbian and gay travelers and Thailand can pride itself as a destination that is rather liberal towards the LGBTI community - or can it? Read more...

Mine controlled by Sydney-based Kingsgate Consolidated limited and located 280km north of Bangkok

An Australian-controlled gold mine in central Thailand is facing fresh accusations of polluting local water supplies with villagers demanding a new investigation into the mine’s operations.

The Akara (Chatree) mine is controlled by Sydney-based Kingsgate Consolidated limited and located 280km north of Bangkok.

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BANGKOK, 15 May 2015: Thailand earned a record THB1,467.31 million from on-location film shoots, January to April this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ Thailand Film Office Department update released Thursday. For the first four months of the year, 260 documentaries, advertising slots, TV series, and music videos were filmed on location […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 15 May 2015: From biking tours by night to a home-stay experience in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ayutthaya, some of Thailand’s best emerging tourism destinations, products and services will be highlighted at the Thailand Travel Mart Plus Amazing Gateway to the Greater Mekong Subregion (TTM+) 3 to 5 June in Bangkok. TTM+2015 […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 15 MAY 2015: A Chinese company is sending more than 12,000 people on an incentive holiday to Thailand, tourism officials said Thursday, with one resort hosting a series of back-to-back banquets catering to thousands of guests at a time. Tourism Authority of Thailand said the enormous group of holidaymakers was one of the largest […] Read more...
Fortify Rights

(BANGKOK)—Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia should immediately coordinate search and rescue operations for Rohingya asylum seekers and possible survivors of trafficking from Myanmar and Bangladesh who are stranded at sea, Fortify Rights said today. The governments of these three countries should open their borders to asylum seekers and provide survivors with access to asylum procedures, protection from detention and forced returns, and freedom of movement.

“This is a grave humanitarian crisis demanding an immediate response,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights. “Lives are on the line. Regional governments should act decisively to rescue and protect asylum seekers and trafficking survivors, not drive them back out to sea.”

Following the discovery of mass graves of more than 30 bodies in an abandoned human trafficking camp in Sadao District, Thailand, authorities arrested several suspected traffickers, including government officials. Thailand has also increased its border enforcement and redoubled its policy of pushing away ships of asylum seekers from Myanmar and Bangladesh. Some human traffickers have abandoned ships at sea, leaving thousands of people stranded. More than 2,500 Rohingya and Bangladeshis landed in Aceh, Indonesia and Langkawi, Malaysia this week after members of a transnational criminal syndicate abandoned ships.

Fortify Rights confirmed hundreds more people are adrift on deserted boats at sea and several thousand others may be following them. Several ships carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution and systematic abuse in Myanmar reportedly departed Myanmar and Bangladesh in recent days and are destined for Thailand and Malaysia.

Governments in the region and the wider international community should commit financial and technical resources to facilitate a coordinated response to saves lives and ensure protections for asylum seekers, survivors of human trafficking, and migrants, Fortify Rights said.

On Monday, the Indonesian Navy towed a boat carrying hundreds of Rohingya from Myanmar out to the open sea. “We towed the boat out of Indonesian waters after giving them food and drinks," Navy spokesperson Manahan Simorangkir reportedly said. On Tuesday, Indonesia rejected a similar boat carrying “thousands” of passengers from Myanmar and Bangladesh, pushing it into open waters. Malaysia also vowed to seal its borders to boats carrying Rohingya and Bangladeshis. “We won’t let any foreign boats come in,” said Tan Kok Kwee, first admiral of Malaysia’s maritime enforcement agency, on Tuesday. Mr. Kwee specified that the Navy would provide “provisions and send them away” unless the boats are unseaworthy and sinking.

Thailand has long implemented a so-called “help-on” policy, pushing ill-equipped boats of asylum seekers and possible survivors of human trafficking back out to sea. Thailand authorities typically provide minimal food and water to boats before directing them toward Malaysia. In April 2015, senior government officials described the policy to Fortify Rights as “humanitarian.”

Fortify Rights has documented how Thailand’s pushbacks and failure to provide protection have directly led to abuses, death, and mass graves.

“Mohammed Tasin,” an 18-year-old Rohingya man from Sittwe, Rakhine State, fled Myanmar in 2012 on a ship carrying more than 100 Rohingya men, women, and children. “We were arrested at sea by the Thai [authorities],” Mohammed Tasin told Fortify Rights in 2014. “They provided drinking water and cut the anchor and towed the boat to the west for one day and one night. Then they just let us go.”

Mohammed Tasin’s boat inadvertently made landfall on an island, where Thai authorities arrested them again. The group spent 11 months detained in an overcrowded, ill-equipped detention facility in Ranong before Thai officials handed them over to human traffickers.

Human traffickers brought Mohammed Tasin and dozens of others to a remote jungle camp in Thailand, where they tortured their captives and demanded up to 60,000 Thai Baht ($2,000 USD) for their freedom. Mohammed Tasin described how he and others witnessed many people die in the camp. Traffickers then forced them to bury the bodies in mass graves.

“In the camp, 17 people died our last few weeks,” Mohammed Tasin told Fortify Rights. “We’d bury the dead bodies in the morning and sometimes when we came back, another would have died.”

“Pushback” and “help-on” actions and policies violate the principal of non-refoulement, which prohibits the “rejection at the frontier, interception and indirect refoulement” of individuals at risk of persecution. Although Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia are not signatories to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, the principle of non-refoulement is part of customary international law and is therefore binding on all states. Under this principle, all countries in Southeast Asia are obligated to protect Rohingya from being returned, including through returns that are informal such as pushbacks out to sea.

Regional governments should allow asylum seekers and migrants to disembark rather than pushing ships back to sea or into the clutches of human trafficking syndicates, Fortify Rights said.    

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates 130,000 Rohingya have departed by sea from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State and Bangladesh since 2012. This figure does not account for regular departures from several other townships in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, including townships where mass violence broke out in 2012 and where sizable camps for displaced Rohingya are located, Fortify Rights said.

“Governments in the region are playing human ping-pong, pushing boats back out to sea while claiming to crackdown on human trafficking,” said Matthew Smith. “All governments have a responsibility to protect survivors of trafficking and asylum seekers. No government can credibly claim to be combatting trafficking while simultaneously creating a ready pool of desperate and insecure people at sea.”

Background

Since 2013, Fortify Rights has interviewed hundreds of Rohingya asylum seekers fleeing state-sponsored persecution in Myanmar and dire conditions in Bangladesh. Fortify Rights has also spoken with more than a dozen human traffickers knowledgeable of the transportation, detention, and abuse of Rohingya persons at sea and in trafficking camps in Thailand and Malaysia. In recent days, Fortify Rights has obtained phone numbers of asylum seekers confirmed to be on ships abandoned at sea.

Human trafficking syndicates have worked in collusion with authorities in Myanmar and Thailand and tortured Rohingya and Bangladeshi captives to extort hefty payments in exchange for passage to Malaysia, particularly since 2012. Rohingya unable to pay have been sold to fishing boats as slaves or into other situations of exploitation. 

Regional governments are now closing their borders to asylum seekers, at times using dangerous and unlawful practices.

For decades, Myanmar authorities have committed widespread and systematic abuses against ethnic Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, including forced labor, rape, arbitrary arrest and detention, and avoidable deprivations in humanitarian aid. Due to Myanmar’s discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law, an estimated one million Rohingya are stateless in Myanmar. In February 2014, Fortify Rightsexposed state policies in Myanmar imposing restrictions on Rohingya marriage, childbirth, freedom of movement, and other aspects of daily life. Fortify Rights believes these abuses amount to crimes against humanity under international law. The implementation of these policies leave Rohingya with few options but to flee their country. 

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled their homes in Myanmar following state-sponsored violence and targeted attacks against Rohingya in 2012. More than 150,000 Rohingya are currently confined to squalid internment camps in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Fortify Rights documented the complicity of Myanmar authorities in the transnational trafficking and smuggling of Rohingya in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Myanmar Police, Navy, and Army officers have demanded payments from transnational criminal syndicates to allow Rohingya individuals to depart Rakhine State, and Myanmar Navy ships have escorted boats carrying asylum seekers to international waters. 

 

Source

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BANGKOK, 12 May 2015: Kasikorn Research Centre estimates the  water park business will grow 22% to 25% to reach THB2.8 to THB3.0 billion this year. The centre said Thailand’s water parks are jam-packed with people seeking to cool off from the intense summer heat. “Water park investments have been robust with new facilities opening in […] Read more...
PATTAYA, 12 May 2015: Thailand’s poor road safety record was on display yet again on Sunday when a tour bus carrying Japanese tourists skidded off a highway into a nearby ditch. Initial reports by the popular online news service PattayaOne said 18 of the Japanese tourists were injured. The single vehicle accident occurred on Highway […] Read more...
It’s been almost a month now since the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) presented the fruits of their labor with the new draft that will become Thailand’s 20th constitution (download the draft and English translation here, more analysis in the coming weeks) - that is, if it actually survives the coming weeks and months. Read more...
BANGKOK, 11 May 2015: Association of Thai Travel Agents leaders say they have adopted a “Big Move” slogan to show members it will reorganise the association to become more efficient and also to revitalise tourism in the country. ATTA president, Charoen Wangananont, said the association has proposed a stronger set of tourism policies to Tourism […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 11 May 2015: The Department of Mineral Resources has told residents in Thailand’s southern region not to panic over tsunami rumours. Last week, there were some minor tremors registered off the coast of Phuket, but officials at the time reassured residents there was no indication that they would be followed by a tsunami. However, rumours […] Read more...