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HRW: Thailand not helping Myanmar reforms

March 14, 2013 at 11:27 AM

NEW YORK, March 14 (UPI) -- The Thai government is called on to grant ethnic Rohingya people refugee status as they flee Myanmar, not shoot them, said Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch said at least two ethnic Rohingya people died after they were shot at by sailors from the Thai navy. The rights organization said about 20 asylum-seekers were captured after their boat ran out of fuel as they traveled from Myanmar, known also as Burma, to Malaysia.

Brad Adams, director of Asia programs at the Human Rights Watch, said from New York that the Thai government needs to conduct a thorough investigation into the military action against asylum-seekers.

"The Thai government should help the oppressed Rohingya from Burma, not worsen their plight," he said in a statement. "Thailand should immediately grant the U.N. refugee agency unhindered access to screen all Rohingya arriving in Thailand to identify and assist those seeking refugee status."

Conflict in Kachin and Rakhine states has overshadowed some of the political reforms made in Myanmar since general elections in 2010.

In November, Mohammad Nawsim, secretary of the Rohingya Human Rights Association, a pro-Muslim group, told the United Nations' humanitarian news agency IRIN that he was "begging" for international rights groups to visit Rakhine to get a firsthand account of the situation on the ground.

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