Thailand police have launched a search operation for a group of Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled a detention centre in the south of the country, an official said here on Friday (10 January).
Nineteen Rohingya, who were slated to be deported to Myanmar, escaped on Wednesday (8 January) from the detention centre in Songkhla province and so far four have been apprehended - three of them in Thailand and one by Malaysian authorities, Chalit Chokamonpanich, Immigration Police director in the region, told Efe news.
"The Rohingya were arrested three months ago when they tried to cross the border between Thailand and Malaysia and now we are carrying out the procedures for deportation with the cooperation of the Department of Social Development," Chokamonpanich said.
Many Rohingya flee to Malaysia, a Muslim majority country that already has a large community of the minority.
Thailand, a transit country for Rohingya fleeing to Malaysia, is not a signatory of the UN refugee convention, so it regularly stops refugees and asylum seekers it considers undocumented migrants and returns them to their countries of origin.
In 2015, Thai authorities dismantled a human trafficking network with links to police and soldiers.
In Myanmar, a Buddhist majority nation, the Rohingya are not recognized as citizens and suffer a strict deprivation of human liberties that has rendered many stateless.
In 2016 and 2017, the Burmese army led a major crackdown targeting the Rohingya in the Rakhine State, northwestern Myanmar, resulting in an ethnic cleansing campaign some international observers have termed a genocide, according to UN researchers.
The Myanmar government has said the army was responding to a series of attacks by Rohingya armed groups against Burmese security forces.
As a result of the military operations during those years over 730,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh where they live in overcrowded conditions on refugee camps lacking access to healthcare and education.
At least 400,000 Rohingya remain in the Myanmar state of Arakan, where 120,000 of them have been confined in camps for seven years.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)
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