Wednesday, December 06, 2006

114 Burmese arrive in Khuk Khak

On December 5th, a small boat filled with 114 Burmese refugees landed on the shore of Khuk Khak in Thailand. The men (aged 10-54) had left Northern Burma (very tip, nearly Bangladesh) on November 16th. They left Burma to avoid forced labour for military construction, forced porter work, land confiscation, and forced evacuation of their homes. They had all contributed money to purchase the boat and travel together. They had anticipated that the trip would take approximately 10 days, but the motor on their boat broke part way through the journey, making their journey longer than anticipated and depleating their food supply. One of the men was injured on the journey, some had contracted disease, and many were weak. On the morning of the 5th, at about 4am, they met a Thai fisherman at sea who directed them to the coast. They arrived at 5am and walked up to the street, looking for work.

Thoo-chit, the Burmese director of Grassroots Human Rights and Education Development was out jogging by the market when he met them, all 114, sitting outside the market. He said that in fact he was quite scared -- they are muslim and currently in the south of Thailand there are brutal disputes with muslims. He said he thought they were Burmese, and suspected that they were just taken out of jail to go down to the south to fight. Others were scared too; Thai people were closing their shutters, and several called the police. Thoo-chit approached them and found that they were Burmese, and learned they had just arrived off their boat. They hadn't eaten in 10 days, so he distributed some food. Some Thai people did as well.

The police arrested them and took them to the prison in Takuapa (about 30km from here). Thoo-chit went as well to help to translate. They will be moved from this prison to the border where they will be investigated by the police. They will stay in the Thai prison for 2 weeks maximum. During this time, Grassroots will ensure they have food and religious needs taken care of. Then they will be deported back to Burma and handed over to the military regime. Thoo-chit stated that: "I strongly believe that if they are deported back to Burma they will undergo severe punishment and torchure."

One man who lives closer to the water than we do was awaken by the men early in the morning, and so he knew where the boat was. He picked us up and took us to see it and to take some pictures to publish. The one above is about 100 plates scattered all across the beach.