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Thai navy denies shooting refugees

March 15, 2013 at 8:46 AM

BANGKOK, March 15 (UPI) -- The Thai navy has denied reports it opened fire on a boat full of Rohingya refugees fleeing ethnic violence in Myanmar.

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch the Thai sailors shot at a boat of about 20 Rohingya refugees in February off Thailand's southwestern coast, the BBC reported.

"Navy personnel fired into the air three times and told us not to move," one of the refugees told Human Rights Watch. "But we were panicking and jumped off the boat, and then they opened fire at us in the water."

Adm. Surasak Rounroengrom, the commander of Thailand's navy, said there's "no navy officer that could be that ruthless."

He said there was no reason for navy personnel to kill refugees because they are not considered to be enemies.

"Since the policy is to push them back out to sea, we provide humanitarian aid with food and water, medicine and gas for them to continue their journey. All we do is help them, even fixing their boats [if necessary], before sending them back on their way," he said.

The government has promised a full investigation into the alleged incident.

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