Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 October 2015
• The Rohingya are the boat people of the twenty-first century. More are braving the sea as a result of the sectarian conflict in Rakhine State. From October 2012, there was a 62% increase from 2011, the highest figure to date.
• The composition of boat passengers has changed. The sectarian violence has caused women, babies and small children to risk the sea journey together with their male counterparts.
• Besides death, the dangers they encounter on their journey include being detained by Thai authorities and/or being pushed out to sea. If they manage to land on Thai shores, brokers move them on towards Malaysia through ‘smugglers’ camps’.
• The Rohingya pay for the boat trip and for brokers to take them through Thailand and into Malaysia either in advance or through debt-bondage.
• The 1752 Rohingya arrested in Thailand in January and February 2013 have been given leave to stay in Thailand for six months. However, Thailand does not intend to allow them to stay permanently.
• The temporary and limited nature of Thailand's policy towards the Rohingya and other asylum seekers is intended to discourage others from flocking to it, to protect its ‘national security’ and to preserve good relations with Nyapidaw.
• Thailand has hosted more than its fair share of refugees since the late 1960s. It has experience handling such inflows, in setting up structures to deal with refugee welfare and security, and managing delicate relations with its neighbours. In this respect, Thailand has a unique and key role in developing durable and humane solutions.
Between 9 January and 4 February, 1752 Rohingya were arrested in Thailand. Unusually, the Thai authorities have granted 1500 of them leave to stay for six months. At present, they are residing in shelters and detention centres in southern Thailand and have been provided with food and water. However, Thailand's generosity has its limits: it announced that it would prevent new arrivals from landing on its shores. On 31 January, Thailand stopped the entry of boats carrying 340 Rohingya and ordered them to continue to Malaysia after providing them with food and water.
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