BANGKOK, Thailand – Officials are struggling over whether to establish a central refugee camp for the nearly 1,000 Rohingya who have been rounded up after fleeing violence in western Burma and slipping into Thailand, local media reported Friday (January 18th).
The Bangkok Post quoted Supreme Commander Thanasak Patimapakorn as saying it is up to the government to decide, and that, "In terms of humanitarian assistance, we'll initially provide them with food and shelter in accordance to regulations, but in the long run they'll have to leave." He added, "Foreign countries want Thailand to help the Rohingya, but they don't offer to help us with it."
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who oversees national security, told The Post, "The international community might see Thailand as being cruel if we turn away from them, but we must protect the country's interests at the same time."
The Central Islamic Council of Thailand has said it would propose that the central mosque of Songkhla province be used as a main shelter for Muslim migrants who have not been charged with any crimes. Until now, the Rohingya have been taken to overcrowded police detention centres. At last count, 949 were in custody.
Meanwhile, MCOT online news reported that police have issued arrest warrants for two Thais and a Burmese national in connection with smuggling Rohingya into Thailand, and confining them in two separate hideouts in Sadao district.