- By ABC News
MARK COLVIN: There are mounting allegations that the Thai military are trading Rohingya refugees from Western Burma to human traffickers.
Last week PM broadcast allegations that Thai military officers shot and killed Rohingya off the Thai coast. But there also persistent accusations that Thai officials are involved in selling Rohingya to brokers, who then sell them on as bonded labourers.
The ABC has also discovered that unaccompanied children, who are arriving on the boats and others who have arrived with a parent, have been left alone in shelters while their parents are locked up.
Southeast Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel reports.
ZOE DANIEL: At a shelter in southern Thailand, dozens of women and children recover from an arduous journey. Stateless Rohingya, they’re unwanted in western Burma, where violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims has seen the Rohingya attacked, banished and now isolated in camps.
Having fled the violence by boat, now they’re isolated here instead.
‘Our houses were burnt down, so there are 16 families that came from our village,’ Rohingya woman Rujambibi tells me.
About 5000 to 6000 Rohingya have arrived in Thailand since the violence flared in Burma’s Rakhine state last year. They describe scenes of fiery terror in the villages they called home as they were burnt out of town.
Nulu got on a boat with her three children and 110 other people to flee. On a 15-day journey, they ran out of food and water in two.
‘When we were on the boat the food finished in two days. There was raw rice but we couldn’t cook it, there was no water,’ she says.
Incredibly, Nulu gave birth to her fourth child on the boat. An already stateless boy, born in transit.
But at least her son has his mother. Ten-year-old Anamuddin fled to the boat alone after his house was burnt and his mother was killed.
‘Rakhine people slashed her, shot her and burnt the house,’ he says.
He watched his home burn. He believes his six siblings all died in the fire, so he took a boat in the hope of finding his father who left to find work in Malaysia five years ago.
‘I went just like that, I just followed others. I didn’t have my mother or anyone left.’
He records a message to his father on my phone in the hope that we can help find him.
‘We are lonely at night and cry,’ he says.
Eleven-year-old Marmoth is also missing his dad. His mother was also killed in the violence. Now his father’s been taken into detention by Thai authorities and he and his younger brother are alone.
‘I miss my father, I want to see him,’ he says.
Unsupervised in the shelter the boys are vulnerable. Seven children have already disappeared from here and there’s concern they may have fallen prey to human traffickers. It’s something that’s difficult to police amid continuing accusations that Thai authorities are caught up in the trafficking business.
In hiding, this man maintains that the Thai navy intercepted the boat he was on and then facilitated a handover to a broker.
‘The navy asked if we had food to eat and where we were from. They said don’t tell anyone the Thai navy has seen you.’
He says the navy directed the boat to land at Ranong on the Thai coast, where it was met by a human trafficker who ‘bought’ the human cargo. He shows me the scars from where he was beaten when he tried to escape.
‘I was punched here and my hands were tied up. They burnt me on the back here.’
Friends and family raised more than $1000 to pay the broker for his freedom. Dozens more remain in the camp.
‘They said why don’t you give us money, we bought you, why did you try to escape?’
A recent military investigation found no Thai officers are involved in human trafficking.
From Phang Nga, Thailand, this is Zoe Daniel reporting for PM.
MARK COLVIN: Meanwhile, there’s now concern for the safety of four Rohingya men who told the ABC last week that Thai officers had fired on refugees off the country’s coast, and killed two of them. Villagers who were sheltering the men say they went to the local mosque to watch television last night and haven’t been seen since.