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09BANGKOK595 PROTECTING THE ROHINGYA BOAT PEOPLE

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“195865”,”3/9/2009 9:36″,”09BANGKOK595″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”09BANGKOK454|09STATE17836″,”VZCZCXRO3773

PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

DE RUEHBK #0595/01 0680936

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 090936Z MAR 09

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6321

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 3923

RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 5515

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2105″,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 000595

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR PRM/ENA, EAP/MLS

GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/06/2109

TAGS: PREF, PHUM, TH, BM

SUBJECT: PROTECTING THE ROHINGYA BOAT PEOPLE

REF: A. STATE 017836

B. BANGKOK 0454

C. 0395

D. 0311

E. 0233

F. 165

G. 139

Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, for reasons: 1.4 (B) and (D)

1. (C) Summary and Recommendation: We have repeatedly

raised Ref A,s points with Thai officials from the PM down

to provincial security personnel, as well as with wider

public audiences. Such pressure reversed the temporary

maritime push-back policies in place in December and early

January. The Thai may resort to a &soft deportation8 of

the Rohingya which would not deliver them into the hands of

Burmese authorities. The best alternative to deportation

would be the establishment of a temporary holding facility in

Thailand for the Rohingya, to be used pending the results of

a coordinated regional approach including pressure on the

Burmese government to improve conditions in Northern Rakhine

State. If we press the RTG for this option rather than soft

deportation, however, we should be prepared

(along with other international donors) to provide financial

support for the desired holding facility. End Summary and

Recommendation.

2. (C) We have advocated for international standards of

protection for the Rohingya at many different levels in the

Royal Thai government (RTG), from Ambassador-level

presentations to the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, to

refugee coordinator discussions with the provincial military

and civil defense officials responsible for reacting to boat

arrivals. The objectives in Ref A were specific advocacy

points in these engagements.

3. (C) We have also raised U.S. policy concerns to wider

Thai audiences. EAP DAS Scot Marciel addressed the Rohingya

issue at a February 26 Bangkok university conference with

senior MFA officials in attendance, and discussed the

Rohingya with MFA PermSec Virasak during the ASEAN Summit on

February 28. Marciel underlined our opposition to the forced

return of Rohingya to Burma, and the need to address the root

causes of their flight from Burma. A constructive role by

ASEAN in pushing the Burmese government to improve conditions

in Northern Rakhine State was proposed. Ambassador John

similarly publicly voiced U.S. opposition to forced RTG

return of the Rohingya in an article published in the March

5th edition of The Irrawaddy, a regional publication

specializing in Burma-related issues. The policy statement

was subsequently reported by a Thai television news station.

In the article, Ambassador also supported efforts to address

the Rohingya in a regional context in the ASEAN and Bali

Process fora.

Thai policy at present

———————-

4. (C) Our efforts, combined with the international media

criticism, played a role in the RTG\’s abandonment of its

short-lived \”push-back\” policy towards arriving Rohingya

boats in December. The passengers aboard the only vessel to

arrive after our advocacy push have been treated humanely and

transferred to civilian custody. The 78 men and boys, who

received medical care, are still being held in the

Immigration Detention Center in Ranong. The RTG granted UNHCR

access to the group for initial interviews, which determined

that all were Rohingya who departed directly from Burma.

Permission for full refugee status determinations (RSD) has

not been granted by the RTG, which is concerned the move

(which promises possible third country resettlement) may

trigger additional dangerous voyages from Burma and

Bangladesh.

UNHCR view

———-

5. (C) UNHCR is not pressing for full RSD access to this

(and future) groups of

Rohingya, however. UNHCR Regional Representative Raymond Hall

told us privately they do not have the resources to conduct

individual RSD interviews for arriving boatloads of Rohingya:

each interview can take 2-3 hours with translation. Hall

believes that enough is known of the conditions of systemic

persecution in Burma\’s Northern Rakhine State (where UNHCR

has had a presence since the mid-1990\’s) to conclude that all

BANGKOK 00000595 002 OF 002

Rohingya departing from the area are \”persons of concern\” and

eligible for the protections extended vulnerable people. In

addition, Hall noted that formally awarding full refugee

status propels a requirement for one of the standard durable

solutions – voluntary return in safety to Burma, local

integration into Thailand, and third country resettlement –

all of which are unavailable at the moment.

Looking forward: what next

————————-

6. (C) We consider it unlikely the RTG will agree to allow

the most recent group of Rohingya to stay indefinitely. The

RTG may be considering a \”soft\” deportation of the 78

Rohingya boat people in immigration custody by land into

Burma. (In a soft deportation, used daily for returning

illegal Burmese migrants, people are brought to the Burmese

side of the border away from formal checkpoints, and simply

left, without a hand-over to Burmese authorities. The

deportees often return to Thailand within a day or two.) For

the Rohingya, this would likely result in an entry into the

Thailand-based alien smuggling syndicates that specialize in

moving them by land to Malaysia; there is reason to believe

such syndicates organized their initial boat trip from

Rakhine State.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 21, 2011 at 4:16 am

One Response

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