This story is about the Rohingya-people from Burma. Muslims that are persecuted in their home country and have therefore fled to Malaysia.


Violence driven by an extreme Buddhist ideology, has led tens of thousands of Rohingya to flee in the last 18 months through smuggling rings that pledge to take them to Malaysia, a Muslim country that quietly accepts the desperate newcomers. But on their way, many are stranded in Thailand and exposed to unscrupulous brokers.


According to the United Nations, the Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. But very few of the more than 25 million tourists visiting Thailand each year take notice of the extensive human trafficking of refugees in southern Thailand.







These are pictures taken by a Swedish tourist in Thailand a few years ago.




But... what was that - in the background...?


It turns its people, tightly shoved together, guarded by Thai military with machine guns.



90 stranded refugees have been forced ashore on idyllic Similan Island. They are trust up like cattle. The sun is brutal. Many tourist are indifferent.


Similan is not far from popular tourists resorts, such as Khao Lak and Phuket.


And from Phuket we travel to the southern provinces, near Malaysia.


Produced by: FOLKE RYDÉN


Recently, extensive human trafficking connected to the refugee boats has been uncovered in the area. My guide is Chutima Sidasathian, a Thai reporter who has been investigating the abuse.


It turns out that most of the boats belong to Rohingya people, stateless muslims from Rakhine-province in Burma.  


The way to democracy in Burma has been beset by explosive ethnic conflicts. In 2012, Buddhist fundamentalist torched houses belonging to Rohingyas. 140 000 where forced into huge camps.


Now, many Rohingyas sell everything they got and flee in unseaworthy boats to Malaysia, a Muslim country quietly accepts them.


But on they way, true Thai waters many end up in the hands of human traffickers. Sometimes, allegedly, with the assistance of elements within the police and military. The refugees are then held captive to camps in the jungle. From there, they are allowed to call relatives in Malaysia or Thailand for money to buy their freedom. If unsuccessful, the refugees might face slave labour on Thai fishing ships or rubber plantations.


In a mosque situated in a tiny village, we meet Rohingyas who have managed to escape. Mohammad tells about the horrible conditions in his camp and the many deaths there.



 -He says he stayed like this in the camp for three months and he could not force himself to move.



They where forced to sit with legs crossed or lie in the foetal position. If they tried to stretch they would get hit. After a few months, their leg muscles atrophied and they could neither walk nor escape. The guards' job was maid easier if the prisoners couldn't stand.


They show us the where they wear hit. They have a hard time getting to the mosque to pray. Leg muscles heel slowly. 


We continue, and meet a Thai family brave enough to hide refugees.



-About 40 Rohingyas where kept inside like this. He said his house been burned and he is the only child of the family. He left his home town 4 months ago.


But our presence causes concern.



- The broker is just out there, next door.

- So he should not see us?


This is a Rohingya-family with permanent residency in Thailand. Durman had to borrow money to pay the human traffickers keeping his cousin captive. In the middle of our conversation the phone rings. It's the broker again. 




Broker on the phone:

- You have to pay...


Another relative is being kept captive in the jungle - he's freedom costs 60.000 bath, or 2000 US dollars, but Durman has no money to transfer to the account number he has just received by text. 



- 60.00 Bath. He not have money...





- My hart is broken when I saw his tears, and then the start crying. And what? The problem still happens and it's worse and worse, day by day. Nobody cares.


Chutima searches for evidence in an abandoned camp in the jungle. She wants to reveal the extent of the human trafficking. And she wants to know if and how the Thai police and military are involved. By this she is challenging powerful interests.


- I don't mind to be in jail. If I can save another life and help get better conditions and more people to care.



Police Major General


- What is your response Sir, to allegations that Thai authorities have been involved in trafficking?

- I heard that there are some officials get involved in this. So I myself seriously investigate this issue. But I still not have any evidence yet, can not say anything


Finally, we meet Rohingyas who have been in interment camps, and freed by the police, only to end up in an immigration authority cell.



- Please help us, help our families...


From one hell to another. Neither Burma nor Thailand wants anything to do with them. When they are deported it is not unlikely that they will end up in the hands of human traffickers again. Recycling of refugees is not uncommon.


We leave the cell as the next truck load of Rohingyas is on its way in. The tragedy seems to be never ending.



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