PHUKET – Thai police used water cannon to prevent scores of Muslim Rohingya boat people from Myanmar breaking out of a detention centre to celebrate the end of Ramadan, officials said on Thursday.
Some 261 Rohingya asylum seekers broke the locks on two rooms and then tried to storm the centre’s secure front door in southern Phang Nga province, where many have been held for months, police told the reporter.
“Officials blocked them at the ground floor and are negotiating with them… but they still want to come out and refuse to go back to the rooms,” according to provincial police chief Chalit Kaewyarat.
He said police fired water cannon through the gated front door to prevent the refugees, who are all men, leaving and “to calm them down.”
“We will wait until they are calm before moving them (temporarily) to police stations,” he added. A local official requesting anonymity confirmed the incident, adding the Rohingya men want to come out “for prayers for Hari Raya” — as the festival of Eid, marking the end of the Muslim holy month, is known locally. Police said they would allow five of the detainees out at a time “but all of them still want to leave” prompting the angry stand-off.
Many of the asylum-seekers have been locked up in the overcrowded and reportedly insanitary centre for several months, prompting rights groups to call for their release.
Thousands of Muslim Rohingya boat people — including women and children — have fled the former junta-ruled country since Buddhist-Muslim clashes a year ago in the state of Rakhine in western Myanmar.
Those who arrived in Thailand have been “helped on” by the kingdom’s navy towards Malaysia — their destination of choice — or detained as illegal immigrants.
Separately, police arrested four men — a Thai, two Chinese and a Taiwanese national — for possession of more than 230 kilogrammes of heroin in Bangkok.
Acting on a tip-off, drugs police arrested the 39-year-old Thai in a hotel in a Bangkok suburb. A subsequent search of his car uncovered the huge haul of heroin sealed in nearly 700 packets, police said. The Chinese, aged 53 and 43, were arrested alongside a 43-year-old Taiwanese at the capital’s main airport before they could board a flight to Hong Kong, police said in a statement.
“They were charged with drugs possession and are under police detention awaiting further legal action,” it added. Police did not put a street value on the massive seizure.