(9 August) Security force
used batons and water cannons to quell groups of Rohingya asylum seekers who protested over rights
to practise Islamic prayer yesterday in Phang Nga Province.
Over 250 refugees caused mass
breakout from their quarters in the province′s detention centre, but the police officers managed to
bar the detainees from leaving the facility by holding them behind the main gate. Soon the police
were reinforced by riot control units and rescue workers.
The protesters demanded the right
to perform religious rites marking the end of Ramadan, the Islamic fasting season. The authorities
said they would only allow the group to perform the prayers outside the building in groups of 5 at a
time, but the Rohingya detainees rejected the offer and continued to shake the metal gate, intent on
The police responded by beating the protesting Rohingya with their batons,
while others fetched a local Imaam. The cleric arrived at the centre and convinced the detainees to
stay calm, and later he led a mass prayer with the Rohingyas as they stayed inside the
However, the detainees tried to break out from the gate again soon afterwards, so
the security forces decided to fire water cannons at the gate to keep the protesters at bay, but the
measure failed as the Rohingya kept surging back at the gate.
Some police officers voiced concern that
if the refugees broke out, they might cause harm to the society, as there are many provincial
authorities’ offices and a kindergarten in the area.
A number of officers requested
the tear gas to be fired to disperse the crowds, but the requests were rejected by the commanding
officers who ordered the gate to be reinforced instead. The officers were instructed to stand down
and let the rioting Rohingya become exhausted on their own.
Once the riots subsided, the riot
police moved into the building and sorted out instigators within the groups. The leaders were
separated and sent to other police stations in the province. Nevertheless, the unrest soon erupted
again. Some shouted that they wanted to be transferred to a third country instead of being holed up
in the facility.
Eventually around 17.00, after 8 hours of confrontation, the police finally
secured the facility and resolved the situation. The refugees were separated into groups and
transported to be detained in local police stations.
According to human rights activists and
news reports, the mostly-Muslim Rohingya ethnics suffer routine persecution in Myanmar. Many of the
Rohingya fled the country, and Thai Navy regularly intercepted their boats.
groups also detailed abuse of Rohingya refugees at the hands of Thai authorities and the poor
condition of their detention centres.