On Saturday, Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn was dispatched by headquarters to find out more about the group who were detected on Saturday on the remote, monkey inhabited island of Ko Dong about 70 to 80 km off the coast of Satun. The group of 59, including men, women and children, had been stranded on the island for a week after being dropped off by human traffickers and told they had already reached Malaysia.

A group of 59 Rohingya found on the remote island of Ko Dong in the Tarutao National Park off the southwestern coast of Thailand are to be charged with illegal entry into the country and sent back to Bangladesh after they were rescued by a Royal Thai Navy patrol vessel on Sunday. Royal Thai Police headquarters on Saturday dispatched top cop, Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn, to investigate the group with fears that they may be linked to increased human trafficking activity in the area as the Rohingya crisis again grows urgent with over 1.2 million refugees alone reported in the small Bangladesh city of Cox’s Bazar forcing tougher policies there by authorities to keep the population safe and healthy.

Royal Thai Navy units delivered water and food to the remote island approximately 70 to 80 km off the coast on Saturday for the relief of 59 Rohingya refugees stranded on a rocky shoreline. The group were later transferred by patrol boat to the mainland, in Satun province, on Sunday. There, they were visited by Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn, sent by Royal Thai Police headquarters to establish who they were and how they came to be on the island. It is understood that the refugees will be charged with illegal entry into the kingdom and later returned to Bangladesh where they are believed to have originated from.

The Governor of Satun province, on Sunday, revealed that 59 Rohingya boat people who were discovered over the weekend on Dong Island within the Tarutao National Park off south western Thailand, in the Andaman Sea, will be returned to Bangladesh where they are understood to have originated from.

It is believed the group had been on the remote island for a week and were noticed by local officials sitting on rocks at the edge of the island which is part of over two hundred islands which form an extended UNESCO protected park.

Ko Dong, a remote island within outlying waters off Satun province, was home to 59 Rohingya boat people

The island is inhabited by monkeys and is a popular destination for tourists visiting Ko Lipe and other visitors to the Tarutao National Park which has become a popular tourist attraction since it was established in 1974.

Ekkarath Leesen said the group, including 31 men, 23 women and five children, were on their way to work in Malaysia by boat when they were dropped off at the small island, about 70 to 80 km off the coast of Satun province.

A spokesman for the Royal Thai Navy, Pokkrong Monthatphalin, told reporters, on Sunday, that the group had been transported in a fishing trawler from Bangladesh and were left on the island by the skipper who told them that it was Malaysian territory.

Men, women and children found exhausted and in need of food and water by local national park officials

On Saturday, units of the Royal Thai Navy, in a coordinated operation with the airforce and other services, dispatched three fast boats to the island to bring food and water to the group.

It followed an alert from officials working within the Tarutao National Park who first detected the presence of the Rohingya on the island the same day.

Officials working with the park service reported that the group appeared to be exhausted and in need of both food and water.

Senior Thai officials underlined that the group, who appear to be the victims of a human trafficking operation, is being regarded, under standards laid down by the National Security Council, as people to be treated, at all times, with due respect for human dignity and life.

Group to face charges for illegal entry

There are fears that the illegal trafficking of the Rohingya population is growing as the numbers continue to swell in the already overwhelmed host country of Bangladesh which has been receiving Muslim refugees since violence and ethnic cleansing broke out in Myanmar in 2016.

At the same time, it is understood that the Rohingya group on Ko Dong will be charged with entering Thailand illegally. 

On Saturday, the deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Police, Roy Inkhapairot, dispatched Police Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn to Satun to investigate the case and establish where the group had originated from.

Police Lieutenant General Surachate visited the refugees after they were taken, on Sunday, to temporary quarters at the Border Patrol Police compound in the Muang district of Satun province.

Rohingya refugees paid human traffickers ฿39,000 each to be dumped on the remote Andaman Sea island

The 59 boat people had earlier been taken from Dong Island to Langu in Satun, a ferry point used to gain access to the islands off the province including Koh Lipe and others within the extended Tarutao National Park.

The top police officer believed that the group may be linked to another group of 199 Rohingya refugees also found in Satun province on May 24th last. 

It is reported that the group had each paid RM 5,000 or ฿39,000 to the human traffickers to be taken to Malaysia from Bangladesh.

Growing crisis in Bangladesh as the number of Rohingyas continues to grow particularly in the fishing port city of Cox’s Bazar in the Bay of Bengal

Since the persecution of the Muslim minority in western Myanmar began in October 2016 until January 2017 and from August 2017 to the present day, orchestrated by Myanmar’s military and also driven by local antipathy towards the population, over 1.5 million Rohingya people have fled across the border into Bangladesh.

Many have travelled to the Bangladesh fishing port and city of Cox’s Bazar, on the southeastern coast of the Bay of Bengal where it is estimated, so far, over 1.2 million have arrived with the number still growing.

This has placed Bangladesh authorities under extreme pressure both in terms of resources and the problems posed by a refugee population which dwarfs the local population in Cox’s Bazar which, according to 2011 data, stands at 265,500.

They have begun forcibly moving the Rohingyas to a purpose-built facility on the island of Bhasan Char where over 100,000 refugees have already been moved on a compulsory basis.

Many Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar feel new purpose-built island home is a prison despite better conditions

Despite the island’s purpose-built, modern facilities offering better health and sanitary conditions to the Rohinga population, those living on the island must obtain an official pass to leave it. 

This has led to claims that the new island facility is a prison in all but name, a charge strenuously denied by officials, including health officers, on the island charged with taking care of the Rohingya community.

In April this year, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organisation, headquartered in New York, expressed concern about the latest policies being pursued by Bangladesh authorities.

‘Bangladesh is understandably burdened with hosting nearly one million Rohingya refugees, but cutting them off from opportunities to work and study is only compounding their vulnerability and dependence on aid,’ Meenakshi Ganguly explained as concern grows for the fate of the Rohingya people with growing numbers still arriving in Bangladesh placing an increased strain on an already challenged host country.

Clampdown on irregular schools and madrasas

It is understood that over half of the refugees in Cox’s Bazar, at this time, are children, a situation which prompted the development of the new facilities on Bhasan Char island.

Bangladesh officials are also reported to be concerned about the spread of Islamic fundamentalism among the Rohingya population.

This led to an order, in December 2021, which banned makeshift schools established by the Rohingya community themselves within the refugee camps to provide some form of primary and secondary school education to children.

Madrasas, providing Islamic religious teaching to younger Rohingyas, have also been outlawed by authorities in Bangladesh. 

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