By Chutima Sidasathian 
May 31, 2013
PHUKET: Residents of a district in the province of Nakkorn Si Thammarat have protested all night long against a camp for Rohingya refugees being established there.

Locals added their names to a petition and invited others to sign in protest at the possibility of a camp for the unwanted boatpeople from Burma being housed nearby. 

About 2000 Rohingya men, women and children are being held in Thailand while Thai authorities consider their status and their future. 

The Rohingya – Muslims who have fled Burma in fear of their lives because of ethnic cleansing – were rescued from boats or freed from human traffickers’ camps. 

A decision on their fate is supposed to be made by Thai officials before the end of July, when a six month deadline expires.

Today the district leader of Cha-Uat in Nakkorn Si Thammarat province, Sakchai Chai Cher, told Phuketwan that the Army used a camp over about 20 rai in the area 30 or 35 years ago, but it had not been used since then.

”It’s only 300 metres from the council offices and close to a school,” he said. ”We don’t think it’s the right place for the Rohingya.

”There must be more suitable camps for them, closer to the Burma border.”

The protest by residents continued through the night and was abandoned this morning with other residents being urged to sign a petition. 

No decision has been declared about the Thai Government’s approach to the 2000 detained Rohingya but it is believed the Army is conducting research on potential camp sites.

The 2000 Rohingya pose a difficult issue for the Thai government, which does not want to encourage more Rohingya to sail south, expecting to find sanctuary in Thailand. 

More than 30,000 Rohingya are thought to have left Burma by sea in the sailing season between October and April, hoping to reach Malaysia. Hundreds have been trafficked through Thailand. 

Rohingya women and children are being held in family refuges on Phuket and in the neighboring province of Phang Nga while men are in captivity in Immigration cells in Phuket and Phang Nga and at other provinces around Thailand. 

An Anti-Human Trafficking Day is being held at the Phang Nga family refuge next Wednesday.