PHUKET: In a stunning development this morning, Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut announced that the 71 Rohingya rescued
from an open boat adrift off Phuket yesterday are en route to be repatriated to Myanmar.
The move to repatriate the refugees, including women and children, came at the request of the refugees themselves, Gov Maitri said.
Speaking at the monthly “Governor Meets the Press” meeting, Governor Maitri explained that Phuket Immigration had arranged to transport the 71 Rohingya – which included women and children fleeing violent persecution in their home state of Arakan in Myanmar – to Ranong, about 300km north of Phuket.
There, they will cross the border to re-enter Myanmar.
However, Governor Maitri also explained that the Thai government considers the Rohingya people as a people in need.
“They are like patients who need treatment. They said they were on their way to Malaysia, but ran out of fuel. They asked us for food and fuel. We gave them 200 liters of fuel for the long journey to Malaysia.
“However, they had already spent almost two weeks at sea – they departed their shores on December 19. They were exhausted; so instead of risking heading back out to sea to continue their journey, they decided to go back home,” Gov Maitri said.
Phuket Immigration was contacted and asked to organize food and transport for the refugees.
“They are all being returned to the Ranong border by car. The cars left Phuket this morning,” Governor Maitri added.