Villagers corroborate Rohingya story on Thai military shootingBy Bangkok Pundit Mar 15, 2013 9:30AM UTC
In a follow-up to the post the other day entitled Thai military accused of trafficking, shooting Rohingya, Human Rights Watch has issued a statement calling for an investigation by the Thai authorities. One key excerpt from the HRW statement:
“Navy personnel fired into the air three times and told us not to move,” one survivor told Human Rights Watch. “But we were panicking and jumped off the boat, and then they opened fire at us in the water.”
Four Rohingya who swam to the shore were rescued by local Thai villagers. Thai security forces searched the area for two days after the incident, but the villagers kept the survivors hidden.
The bodies of two Rohingya showing bullet wounds were later pulled from the sea and buried in a Muslim cemetery in Kuraburi district. Thai fishermen told Human Rights Watch they saw more dead bodies in the water but had no more information. The fate of the remaining passengers on the boat remains unknown after it was towed away by the Thai navy.
Human Rights Watch called on the Thai government and the National Human Rights Commission to conduct thorough and transparent investigations into the shooting. If unnecessary or excessive force is found to have been used, all those responsible, including officers who gave orders to fire, should be prosecuted.
The Nation has the Thai Navy response to the HRW statement:
Royal Thai Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Surasak Rounroengrom dismissed the report as impossible and untrue and asserted that the Thai navy had not killed any Rohingya people as it did no more than offer them humanitarian aid. “I state that no [Thai] Navy officer could be that ruthless,” he said.
Surasak said he had given orders to the Thai Navy Region 3 and Phang Nga naval base that Rohingya boats found attempting to reach Thai shores should be provided with food, water, medicines and gasoline before being towed back to sea to reach their intended final destination, as Thailand could only be a transit location. He said Thailand’s policy was not to shelter or care for Rohingya refugees, but to send them back to the sea in accordance with humanitarian principles.
“I assure you that navy officers have no reason to kill Rohingya, because they are not an enemy.
“Since the policy is to push them back out to sea, we provide humanitarian aid with food and water, medicine and gas for them to continue their journey. All we do is help them, even fixing their boats [if necessary], before sending them back on their way,” Surasak said.
The Bangkok Post:
“The navy commander [Adm Surasak Rounroengrom] has insisted that the navy did not kill or shoot at the Rohingya,” a navy source told the Bangkok Post. “We feel for them. No humans or sailors can commit such act because the Rohingya people are not our enemy.”
Firing on the Rohingya “doesn’t even cross our minds,” the source said.
Adm Surasak on Wednesday visited a naval base in Phang Nga to meet navy personnel, look into Rohingya-related issues and inspect the construction of a new port.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Monday that the government doesn’t encourage violence and will investigate.
The same source said Vice Adm Tharathorn Khachitsuwan, commander of the Third Region Navy, and Rear Adm Weeraphan Sukkon, commander of the Royal Navy Phang Nga Base, both believed the navy was being framed by Rohingya who were angry because the navy prevented them from coming ashore.
BP: ABC (Australia) Southeast Asia Correspondent Zoe Daniel tweeted pointing out in response to the Bangkok Post story “Just on that; note that in part the allegations came from Thai villagers who heard shots/retrieved bodies not #Rohingya”. Indeed.
PhuketWan, who also excellently covered the 2009 pushback of the Rohingya, have been speaking to the villagers in the area have two articles.
Phuketwan has spoken at length to eight members of the community of Hinlad village, near the port of Kuraburi on the Andaman Sea, and been supplied with video and still images that support their claims that defenceless boatpeople were shot or drowned in a breach of military discipline before dawn on February 22.
All of the people we spoke to today are loyal Thai citizens. As a group, they are disturbed by what they have heard and what they have seen lately.
Deputy village chief Aduwat Ahamad is a paramilitary for Thailand’s Internal Security Operations Command, which oversees border security. But he said today he had told police and Navy officers: ”In the past, we closed one eye to the people-trafficking that has been going on in secret all along the coast. But I cannot stay silent with the deaths of innocent Muslims. My heart is broken by this slaughter.”
Others in the village said they shared Khun Aduwat’s distress at the loss of the lives of the Rohingya. The men are mostly still missing – only two bodies were recovered and buried, one with suspected gunshot wounds to the head.
A fisherman told today for the first time of having a gun pointed at him by a military officer in a controversial incident that led to the deaths of an unknown number of boatpeople north of Phuket.
Fisherman Yutdhana Sangtong said today that four other fishermen were in the boat when the gun was pointed at him. They were ordered to leave. ”Go away. These people have been fed already. Get out,” he says he was told at gunpoint.
Later, he heard a volley of gunshots, In the days that followed, Khun Yutdhana says, he found three bodies in the water nearby. Other fishermen around the district reported finding more bodies along the coast, around the village of Hinlad.
”One of the three bodies I found was a woman,” Khun Yutdhana said today. ”My friends on the other side of the bay said they saw other bodies. We have compared notes. We think we saw 15 to 20 bodies altogether.”
BP: Both articles have more details than BP provided in the above excerpts so click on both to read the articles for full details. We do not need to rely on just what the Rohingya have said here, but we have corroborating testimony from Thai villagers who were near the scene at the time and heard the gunshots and the aftermath of what happened.