U.N. officials were allowed to meet Thursday with Thailand and interviewed a dozen migrants as young as 14 about their perilous journey and allegations they were abused.detained by
The meeting came after weeks of calls by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and rights groups for Thailand to provide access to the Rohingyas — members of a stateless Muslim ethnic group who fled persecution in Myanmar — and explain allegations that it forced out to sea as many as 1,000 migrants.
By AMBIKA AHUJA, Associated Press Writer
UNHCR officials were granted access to 12 young people, aged 14 to 17, from a group of 78 Rohingyas who were rescued by the Thai navy on Monday night, said Kitty McKinsey, the U.N. agency’s Asia spokeswoman.
“They were in good condition,” she said. “It’s a big step forward that we have gotten access to them. We’re now getting good cooperation from the Thai government to solve this issue.”
McKinsey said she would discuss their findings with Thai authorities before publicizing them, but reaffirmed the agency’s demand that Thailand not forcibly return them to Myanmar. A Thai court convicted the adult migrants detained with the minors of illegal entry on Wednesday, raising concerns they could be deported.
“In principal, the UNHCR is opposed to anyone being forcibly returned to Myanmar,” she said. “I think its human rights record is well known.”
This photo released on January 20, shows illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar receiving food, in Similan island south of Thailand. (AFP/HO/File/AFP)