Rohingya refugees to get care: Yingluck

Concerned agencies are in the process of classifying some 857 Rohingya people who illegally entered Thailand recently, the Ministry's permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow said yesterday.

Sihasak said most of the Rohingya were men (667), but they include 30 women, and 160 minors aged below 18.

"We will proceed in line with laws and humanitarian principle," he explained.

By law, the Rohingya had committed the offence of entering Thailand illegally, so they have already been charged.

"But first and foremost, we have to take care of them on humanitarian grounds," Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said. There was no immediate plan to deport the Rohingya back to Myanmar or send them to a third country as of now, she said.

The PM also explained that a deportation, if it occurred, would be conducted in consultation with the UN.

Sihasak said relevant authorities would have to request a budget from the Cabinet for the provision of care provided to the Rohingya. "Budget is an important factor."

An informed source claimed many Rohingya got assistance to travel to Malaysia before but now the country had less demand for these workers. "Due to the agreement signed with Bangladesh, Malaysia has hired more Bangladeshi workers."

The prime minister discussed the situation yesterday with top officials including Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul and Navy chief Admiral Surasak Rounreungrom, asking them to seek a proper solution to handle the refugees. Yingluck assigned Surapong to talk with the UN about assistance.

Sihasak said United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration, and United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef), had expressed concern and a wish to help the Rohingya.

Yingluck asked the Navy to take care of concerns over the Rohingya, to stop them getting involved in violence in the far South.

Department of Special Investigation chief Tharit Pengdith said he would propose that the UN step in to ensure the Rohingya don't starve and can migrate to a third country.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority who endured serious conflict with Buddhists in Rakhine State that left dozens dead and tens of thousands homeless.

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