Thai official downplays refugee claims

Feb. 13, 2009 at 3:29 PM

BANGKOK, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A Thai military official who stands accused of abusing Rohingya refugees from Myanmar says such claims are politically motivated and intended to harm Thailand.

Col. Manas Kongpan, one of the Thai officials accused of ordering Rohingya asylum-seekers to be taken out to sea, said the refugee abuse allegations simply represent journalistic attacks against his country, the BBC reported Friday.

"They all come from journalists who have problems with Thailand and just want to slander us," Manas said.

Survivors of the Rohingya incident alleged they were sent adrift in vessels without engines. Those survivors also detailed alleged torture and imprisonment by the Thai military, the BBC said.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Friday while some refugees may have been adrift, those individuals were always provided appropriate supplies, the Thai News Agency reported.

"I believe that at times when there is ... a lot of pressure in terms of the numbers of these people coming in, there are attempts to try to let these people drift to other shores. The one thing that is clear is that when these procedures do occur it is done on the understanding that there is enough food and water supplied," Vejjajiva said.

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