'Human cargo in need of compassion'
A long-time activist for the Rohingya stands behind a plea made last week before parliament calling for the government to take a more humanitarian stance towards the ethnic group who are easy prey for trafficking gangs
'Why is this not human trafficking? If this is not human trafficking, what else could it be?'' asked an emotional Abdul Kalam, coordinator of Thailand's Rohingya National Organisation. He was referring to the decision last Monday to repatriate Rohingya from Myanmar's Rakhine state. The National Security Council, along with the Foreign Ministry, ruled that human trafficking plays no part in the rickety boats full of Rohingya that have washed up on Thai shores because there was no evidence of slave labour, forced prostitution or forced begging. Therefore the Rohingya can stay a maximum of six months in Thailand before they are sent back to Myanmar.
STILL DRIFTING: Left and below left, Rohingya refugees pack a boat headed to Malaysia last week as the boat is boarded by Thai Navy officers offering assistance close to Phuket island.
Abdul Kalam, a Rohingya who left Myanmar 30 years ago and entered Thailand at Tak's Mae Sot district, told Spectrum last week he estimates that, besides the highly publicised boat people, some 3,000 to 4,000 Rohingya live as illegal immigrants in Thailand, mostly in Bangkok.
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