Thailand: Activists Call for Probe of Rohingya Girl’s Death

BenarNews staff
171110-TH-rohingya-620.jpg Fishermen provide water to Rohingya on a boat drifting in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe, May 14, 2015.

Thai authorities should investigate the case of a 16-year-old Rohingya girl who died this month after spending more than three years in immigration detention facilities, Fortify Rights, a Swiss-based rights advocacy NGO, said Friday.

The girl, Zainab Bi Bi, died Nov. 2 at Hat Yai Hospital in Songkhla, a province along Thailand’s southern border with Malaysia. Zainab, who suffered from a blood-clotting disorder, fainted and bled from her nose and ears on Oct. 27 while being held at the Sadao Immigration Detention Center (IDC) before being transferred to a hospital, the NGO said.

“Zainab Bi Bi’s death is a tragedy that should spur Thai authorities to take immediate action to end the indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers,” Fortify Rights Executive Director Amy Smith said in a news release.

“Instead of receiving the highest level of care and protection as a refugee child, Zainab Bi Bi died behind bars.”

A police official said the girl could have suffered from a form of cancer.

Police Col. Sangkhom Tadso, the immigration chief in Songkhla province, told BenarNews that suspicious deaths warranted investigations.

“Death by unnatural cause must be investigated by Hat Yai Police who are in charge in the region,” he said. “An autopsy is a common practice. No matter who died, investigators will do that.”

Zainab Bi Bi’s doctor said she might have had leukemia, according to the police official.

“This Rohingya person was sick and sent to the hospital, while her sister who also was detained, went with her along with a police officer,” Sangkhom said.

“After she felt better, she was transferred back to the detention center, but it turned out that she had a recurrent condition,” he said. “She was in a hospital for several days until she died.”

Smith’s group alleged that the government detained the girl in shelters and detention centers after she became a victim of human trafficking from Myanmar to Thailand in 2014. Zainab Bi Bi received treatment at the hospital for a blood disorder several times in the months leading up to her death.

Thailand’s far southern region is notorious as a route for the cross-border smuggling of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. Two years ago, the discovery of jungle graves of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants on the Thai side of the frontier led to a government crackdown on human trafficking.

At the time, Thai authorities imposed a maritime blockade on boats smuggling people from Myanmar and Bangladesh. The move caused thousands of Rohingya people and Bangladeshi migrants to come ashore in neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia, spurring a regional migration crisis.

16 detained

Fortify Rights said 16 Rohingya – seven women and nine men – are being held at the Sadao IDC, where the group documented inhumane conditions in 2016. Rohingya detainees said they were confined indoors 24 hours a day in overcrowded, unsanitary cells without access to adequate hygiene amenities, adequate food, exercise or appropriate medical treatment.

Additionally, at least three detainees, including a Pakistani asylum seeker, died this year at the Suan Phlu IDC in Bangkok, the group alleged.

“Thailand’s immigration centers are notorious for failing to meet basic minimum standards,” Smith said. “Detention cells are not a safe or appropriate place for refugee children.

“Zainab Bi Bi’s death should not go unnoticed. Thailand needs to immediately reverse its appalling treatment of refugees.”


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