SONGKHLA : A temporary shelter for Rohingya women in this southern province is struggling to contain tension and quarrels among occupants.
Nittaya Mukdamas, head of the Songkhla Women and Children Shelter, told senior officials and members of the National Human Rights Commission during their visit earlier this week that incidents of violence had occurred at the facility.
The Songkhla shelter cares for 105 Rohingya women.
A total of 1,769 Rohingya are detained in different centres in the South and other provinces including Kanchanaburi, Mukdahan and Ubon Ratchathani.
The government said it would provide temporary shelters to the illegal immigrants for six months while it looks for a third country to take them.
Ms Nittaya said the Rohingya were feeling the strain of being detained and quarrels were common.
For example, late last week, a pregnant woman was assaulted by other women and sent to Songkhla Hospital.
Holding her 15-month-old daughter in her arms, the woman who was assaulted, Nuhabar, said she encountered problems with other women in the shelter twice.
"First, I was accused of stealing their ice. Then, I switched on a fan when I entered the room," Nuhabar said. The women who were sleeping in the room shouted at her and berated her for bothering them.
"I told her that I didn't know. They came to me, kicked me and punched me in the stomach and buttocks," said the Rohingya woman, who is about six months' pregnant.
Ms Nittaya said the three attackers were handed over to police.
Nuhabar said she left her home in Santori village in Rakhine state because she did not feel safe there.
"People said it would not be safe and many of them went to the sea. My husband brought us to the sea as well," said Nuhabar. She added that she is worried about her husband, who came on the same boat but was separated from her when they were arrested.
Nuhabar said they had drifted in the Andaman sea for about 13 days before Myanmar coastguard officers captured them. She claimed the officers demanded money before giving them food and water supplies and allowing them to sail on.
The Rohingya aimed to go to Malaysia but got lost.
A Thai fishing boat found them before men who identified themselves as Thai authorities captured them. Nuhabar said members of her group were forced into crowded pickup trucks.
They were temporarily placed in some houses then packed into trucks again.
She and her group were kept in an unknown location in Songkhla's Padang Besar district for 10 days until police raided it and rescued the captives on Jan 10.
Police have since arrested 10 people involved in the smuggling of Rohingya migrants, while three other suspects remain at large.
Ms Nittaya said there are communication difficulties with the Rohingya and it is difficult to coordinate visitors.
"The first translator was found to be linked to brokers so we replaced him after a few weeks. The second one had other work responsibilities. Now, we are looking for a more permanent translator or we will have to relocate some problematic Rohingya to immigration centres," Ms Nittaya said.
The Emergency House in Satun where 31 Rohingya boys are detained faces less serious problems.
The shelter's chief, Kachan Sungpet, said although some of the teenage boys did cause minor problems, they were not violent.
Some argued about bedtimes, areas where they could spit betel nut, food or prayer calls. However, there are some boys in the shelter who were natural leaders and mended rifts when quarrels broke out.
An imam came to read the Koran with them four or five days a week and authorities are thinking of allowing them to visit a nearby mosque on some prayer days and to help clean up, Mr Kachan said.
About the author
- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat