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Pattaya Daily News

02 February 2013 :: 09:02:58 am 70979

Ranong People Oppose Rohingya Refugee Camp

The thorny issue of what to do with persecuted Rohingya refugees from Myanmar continues to vex Thai authorities. A proposal to build a refugee camp in Ranong province has raised protests by some local military and community leaders.
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Ranong province in south Thailand borders Myanmar. Ranong is the least populated province in Thailand, with about 180,000 people. About 80 percent of Ranong is covered by forests, and 67 percent of the land is mountainous.

Two locations in Ranong are being considered for the Rohingya refugee camp, which would cover about 400 rai of land. Several inner people in the Ranong security department claimed there is a movement to push for a refugee center for the Rohingya refugees. But some local leaders are protesting that the center would place too much of a burden on the province.

Ranong security officers revealed that a command was given for the province to accelerate the process of finding a location to build the Rohingya center to support the immigrants. There is a deadline to pick its location by the end of January. The security office of Ranong has sent officials to survey areas to build the refugee center.

They found two appropriate spots, one in Rachakrood, because it was near a military unit; and the second spot was in Muang Kluang, Kaper, because it is encircled by Muslims.

After a detailed study of the various aspects of each location, the most suitable place was determined to be Muang Kluang, because it is 400 rais, and also has the potential for an animal feeding field to be built within the center. It is also near the mosque, which is convenient for the Rohingya people to live their Muslim way of life.

Mr. Preecha Pinang, the head of the village, Muang Kluang sub district in the Kaper district, said he had not known yet that there would be the push to build the center to support the Rohingyas people in Banbangbon, and an animal feeding field in Muangkluang, Kaper.

But earlier, officers from many government offices had come to inspect the field, who were both Thais and foreigners, but they did say what they wanted. So Mr. Preecha guided them to see both the sea and the land in the area, because he thought that it was important for the officers, who were taking pictures and recording important information about the village and the sea.

“If the establishment of the Rohingya refugees center is to be a reality, I believe that saving human lives is good, but you have to ask the residents first,” Mr. Preecha said. “If people in the area, which is over 90 percent Muslim agree, I don’t have any problem with it, but I want the government to study the effect and find the measures to support, and finding the long term solution for Rohingyas, not to give more problems to the area.”

Mr. Preecha urged the Thai government to commit to a course of action. “If the refugees have to be supported, the government should find a way to help them as quickly as possible.”

The community leader who is opposing the Rohingya refugee center is Mr. Sucheep Patthong. He does not agree to build the center in Thailand, especially along the Andaman coast provinces, even as a temporary stopgap measure before sending the refugees to a third country.

Mr. Sucheep said a growing number of Ranong residents oppose the project, and are ready to take action to prevent it. Residents do not want to have the responsibility for the refugees forced upon them by building the center, he said.

“If any organizations continue to move to support the center, they would be ready to oppose it,” Mr. Sucheep said. Although he has sympathy for the Rohingya people, when he considers the impact that would occur if the Rohingya end up living in the province, it would be greatly affect local residents and cause several problems.

Ranong is already dealing with the current problem of a hundred thousand migrant workers who live in Ranong, and having to deal with issues of public health and security, he said. So the addition of the Rohingyas would only add more problems.

Mr. Sucheep said Thailand should not held responsible for their plight, and said that as an ethnic population, the Rohingyas belong in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and the UK. “Why does Thailand have to support people who are not related to us?” he asked.

Colonel Narin Pannarai, the vice director of interior security of Ranong, revealed that the province was not ready to build the center for the Rohingyas, because now Ranong is still dealing with the problems of migrant workers like the Burmese, Lao, and Cambodians who are working and living in Ranong. So the problem of the Rohingyas should be the problem of the source countries to solve, he said.

Also in opposition was General Lieutenant Udomchai Thammasarot, the army area commander. He does not agree with building the center, because the refugees have come to Thailand for temporary escape, and not to build a permanent place to stay.

According to the United Nations, the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. They have been stripped of their citizenship in Myanmar. Many continue to be victims of torture, rape, human trafficking and forced slave labor.

Over the years, thousands of Rohingya have fled other countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Thailand. There are reportedly 111,000 Rohingya refugees housed in 9 camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. Some Rohingya survivors have reported that in the past, the Thai military has towed boatloads of refugees far out to sea and left them there.

Photo : Internet   Category : Society

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