Today the Thai army picked up 16 Burmese refugees who were stranded on a desert island off Ranong province in southern Thailand for 3 days and 2 nights. The group arrived on the island from Myanmar by boat and were told to wait for another boat to take them to the mainland. However, the boat they were promised never came.
Laem Som National Park officials this morning discovered 16 Burmese refugees stranded on Koh Kam Nui, an uninhabited island in the Andaman Sea off Ranong province. The Thai army was called in to provide assistance.
The refugees, 9 men and 7 women, said they traveled 60 to 70 kilometers across the sea from the town of Kawthoung, at the southernmost point of Myanmar, and passed through Thai territorial waters. The Ranong to Kawthoung crossing is a popular visa for people living in Phang Nga, Phuket and Krabi provinces.
The boat that picked up the group from Myanmar dropped them off on the deserted island and told them to wait for a long-tail boat with a Thai driver to take them to the mainland. However, the boat did not arrive and the group was left without food or water for 3 days and 2 nights.
The group said they plan to cross the mainland, travel through Thailand’s southern provinces and enter Malaysia where they hope to find work. The refugees had agreed to pay the equivalent of 30,000 baht each upon arrival in Malaysia.
Officials suspect no one has dared to pick up the refugees since 3 Thai men were arrested for transporting 30 Burmese refugees by long-tail boat to the same area last week. The men were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking. However, they were found not guilty of the charges.
The army provided the 16 Burmese men and women with food and water and took them to the mainland. The army did not say what would happen to the refugees now.
Despite ongoing violence in Myanmar, Burmese refugees who risk their lives to travel to Thailand or neighboring countries are generally considered by Thai authorities to be illegal immigrants. Usually, Thai authorities return Burmese people who have entered Thailand illegally to Myanmar.
THE SOURCE: Khao Sod