02/27/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Thailand Abuses Burmese Refugees: CNN Investigation

After a week of various accusations and denials, CNN reports that it has uncovered evidence showing that Thai authorities have abused Rohingya refugees who fled Burma (Myanmar) looking for safety in neighboring Thailand.

Extraordinary photos obtained by CNN from someone directly involved in the Thai operation show refugees on their rickety boats being towed out to sea, cut loose and abandoned.


CNN's investigation -- based on accounts from tourists, sources in Thailand and a Rohingya refugee who said he was on a boat towed back out to sea -- helps to piece together a picture of survival thwarted by an organized effort not just to repel arriving refugees, but to hold them prisoner on shore, drag them in flimsy boats far out to sea and then abandon them.

The Irawaddy based in northern Thailand reports that the United Nations has requested access to the Rohingya refugees in Thailand, but it has not yet received a response from the Thai government.

The UNHCR's regional spokeswoman, Kitty McKinsey, told The Irrawaddy: "We are very concerned about them [the refugees]. That's why we want to have access to them to find out what the situation is. And we want to see if any of them are in need of international protection."

It is estimated that up to 20,000 illegal Rohingya migrants have entered Thailand over the years and remain within the kingdom. Hundreds of refugees travelling in open boats were reported recently to have been turned back by the Thai navy, but Thai authorities denied allegations that they were being set adrift without food or water.

Continue reading the CNN story here or watch this video: