Page last updated at 06:33 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

UN awaits Thai reply on migrants

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

Burmese Rohingyas under guard in Thailand
The Thai military is accused of sending refugees off to likely death

The United Nations says it is still awaiting a response from the Thai government over its request three days ago for access to 126 asylum-seekers.

The Burmese Rohingya migrants are being detained by the military in southern Thailand.

Last month around a thousand Rohingyas were towed out to sea and set adrift by the Thai military, said survivors who reached India and Indonesia.

Hundreds are missing, feared dead; Thai officials say they are investigating.

After the horrific testimony from Rohingya survivors about their treatment at the hands of the Thai military last month, the UN Refugee Agency is very concerned for the well-being of a group of 126 more asylum-seekers, who were detained in Thailand a week ago.

But there has been no response yet from the Thai government to an official request by the UN for access to the detainees made three days ago.

'No record'

At one point the Foreign Ministry said it had lost the letter.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman told the BBC that the government does not know where the detainees are - there is no police or immigration record of their arrival.

But military sources in the southern province of Ranong told us they are indeed being held there by unnamed army or navy units.

It seems that the military is withholding information on the detainees from the government.

It is an embarrassing situation for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to find himself in so soon after coming to office with a firm promise to improve transparency and accountability.

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