Drowning Burmese Refugees in Thailand Is Bad Karma

New America Media, Commentary, Andrew Lam Posted: Jan 29, 2009

thai towing boats For a country steeped in Buddhism, Thailand is accruing terrible karmic debts. News reports, including those by the Thai press itself, indicate systematic abuse of refugees fleeing from its neighbor, Myanmar.

Tourists have seen and photographed Thai troops abusing members of a Muslim minority group who were fleeing Myanmar by boat to Thailand’s southern shores. On the Similan Islands, tourists reported seeing boat people lying down on the beach, bound, struck and whipped by Thai military if they raised their heads. CNN recently confirmed with a Thai military source that Thailand is practicing a dump-at-sea policy: towing boats back to the sea, often without giving refugees food or water.

UN refugee agency spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey expressed the gravity of the situation: "The reports that we are hearing are very alarming. That the [boat people] were detained in Thailand and then towed out to sea on unseaworthy boats and left to die basically."

If it strikes the world as contradictory that Thailand, which bills itself as the Land of a Thousand Smiles and boasts of refined hospitality, could also be a country that rejects and beats up on the poor and the dispossessed, it does not strike any of its neighbors as anything but business as usual. Thailand’s long antipathy toward its neighbors is notorious.

Ask a Vietnamese boat person during the '80s who survived Thai piracy in the Gulf of Thailand and you will hear tales of unspeakable horrors – rape, robbery, murder, and human trafficking. UN records are full of documents, describing how Thai pirates used hammers, machetes, and guns to massacre entire boats of refugees, including children and women. Others were simply dumped at sea to drown. Despite international protest, the Thai government made few attempts to prosecute those accused.

During the Cold War, Thailand also supported the Khmer Rouge, the genocidal regime responsible for the death of more than 2 million Cambodians. What did the Land of a Thousand Smiles gain from supporting such a murderous group? Access to the Pailin gem mines and precious timber under Khmer Rouge control, and the promise to keep at bay the invading Vietnamese, who until 1989, occupied Cambodia.

If Thailand is now practicing a cruel and unacceptable policy toward refugees fleeing the cruel and unacceptable military regime in Myanmar, it is because Thailand hasn’t been exactly nice to its own Muslim minorities. Resentment against the Thai government has been brewing, along with allegations of abduction, torture and the disappearances of various Thai Muslim activists in the southern provinces. A primary example is human rights lawyer Sonchai Neelaphaijit, who disappeared while under police surveillance in March 2004. That same year, Thai police and security forces shot dead 107 machete-wielding youths, leaving them in a pool of blood. Thousands have been killed since then. The image of Thailand as a peaceful and gracious country has tarnished since then.

thailand cruel practice There is also an incentive for Thailand not to take refugees: it risks offending the ruling junta in Myanmar, with whom it enjoys a cozy relationship. After all, Thailand is buying jade, precious minerals and timber – all much-needed natural resources -- from Myanmar for a song, with the generals’ blessings. Last year, when the world condemned Myanmar for its inaction after the cyclone Nargis devastated half of its country, Thailand spoke in favor of the junta.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has offered to investigate the current refugee crisis. But an official investigation, given the government’s record so far, and Vejjajiva's military backing, may very well be another word for stonewalling.

Thailand has been a blessed country. While its neighbors suffered under colonial rulers, Thailand escaped that fate and was the only country in Southeast Asia to develop independently and in peace. While Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Malaysia and Vietnam suffered from insurgencies and warfare in the post-colonial period, Thailand – land of golden temples and pristine beaches - grew in confidence and sophistication. Many Thais attribute the country's peace and prosperity to an adherence to Buddhism and devotion to the Buddha.

But such good karma can last only so long. Buddha teaches love and compassion as key components to Buddhist practice. The world and the people of Thailand should seriously question whether killing unarmed refugees is the right path toward peace.

Andrew Lam is an editor at New America Media and the author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Reflections

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User Comments

natacha on Feb 01, 2009 at 19:00:03 said:

I think news is not truth. Minority is problem for thai. the developing country should give money for thai that take care rohiya.

Tony L on Feb 01, 2009 at 10:23:18 said:

To say that because there are criminal elements in the US who killed immigrants (who are persecuted for human rights violations, btw) therefore Thailand is free to kill other immigrants is sort of saying: Two wrongs make a perfect right. I think the world should boycott thailand until it acts humanely toward unfortunate peoples.

Khmer Only Knows How To Attack on Feb 01, 2009 at 09:36:06 said:

Yes, Thailand publicly supported the Khmer Rouge FINANCIALLY. This is to protect itself from the communist regime would soon hurt Thailand in the end. We have to stop this by creating a buffer state by paying Khmer Rouge to do whatever it takes to stop the Vietnam communist to soon invade Thailand.

Human rights don't really work in times of war. And Thailand is now facing both internal and external wars with Cambodia.

Khmer Only Knows How To Attack on Feb 01, 2009 at 09:32:11 said:

One sick thing about internet these days is it\\\'s the place to discredit and insult others who are doing what seems to be very normal in the eyes of the world. Not to mention Mexicans who are shot from crossing the U.S. border illegally and illegal immigrants who are sentenced to life crossing from Burma to Bangladesh.

Thailand only does this to protect its country. It just happens to be very suspicious since all these immigrants are all male. No one knows why and where they are from and what for? There currently is a war zone down south of Thailand with the separists and the military is suspecting whether these are the terrorists who are coming just to help these Muslim separists or not.

Again, if they all have filed the immigration documents legally, they could have come in no problem. They choose to do things illegally and isn\\\'t that what they deserve? Regardless of any reason, all the arrivals are all male? WHY?

sss on Feb 01, 2009 at 08:46:02 said:

ประเทศของพวกเขายังไม่รับคนของเขาเลย แล้วจะมาโทษประเทศไทยได้ไง ประเทศคุณรวยก็รับไปเลี้ยงดิโถ่ๆๆ

Andrew on Jan 30, 2009 at 20:37:51 said:

I stand corrected. I meant gulf of thailand not the Andaman sea. I was thinking of the current boat people who fled from Myanmar. It's re-edited in the piece. thanks for pointing that out. Andrew Lam.

Jotman on Jan 30, 2009 at 11:29:25 said:

Ask a Vietnamese boat person during the '80s who survived Thai piracy in the Andaman Sea and you will hear tales...

You mean the Gulf of Thailand here don't you?

From ki-media.blogspot.com on Jan 30, 2009 at 09:11:30 said:

Anonymous said...
Khmer should also noted and should not forgot that Thai military had done the same to Khmer in 1979 and around that time frame. Many khmers were killed by thai soliders, and land mine planted by Khmer Rouge.

8:14 AM
Anonymous said...
Finally the world is paying some attention to the Thai brutality to the innocent people of their neighbors. This practice has been done over and over for decades to the Burmese, the Laostians and the Cambodians. Clearly, they are disdaining the poor neighbors and abusing their citizens. I am so so happy that the world is paying attention to these innocent people. Their would never heard if it wasn\'t for the CNN and other news medias.

8:24 AM
Anonymous said...
Thanks KI to bring another Thai massacre policy up to the world and the Thai used to support Khmer Rouge Regime. Exactly, there ain\'t many know about it.

May the Kingdom of Bloody Smile go to hell.

Chet Pikdoy

8:28 AM
Anonymous said...
Well, this type of thing exists and evolves around us. People are the same, not only Thailand but other countries as well. When it comes to torture, brutality and killing, it’s every where in the world. That is human’s mentality and misbehavior of a cruel practice toward innocents.

Thailand will pay a big price for damaging the country’s image that was carried out by a group of ruthlessness military. The government doesn’t deserve this exercise in the eye of the world community.

8:56 AM
Anonymous said...
It\'s the land of sin and innocent blood now.

Good luck Thailand. Swallow it, King.

9:00 AM
Anonymous said...
Dear Andrew,

Thank you very much for advising us about the practice of the Buddha\'s teaching!!!

You are so right, love and compassion are the path for peace and real happiness of society and the world, but why most of us forget about that!! Thank for reminding!!!

Good luck!!

9:08 AM
Anonymous said...
All readers,

I remember that the Thais treated Khmer refugees badly during the Khmer Rouge regime and Post Khmer Rouge. Hundreds of Khmer were put in trucks and dumped on the Dangrek Mountain in Preah Vihear province. Many of them were killed by landmines.

Kong Moeung

9:15 AM
Anonymous said...
Yeab, that\'s true. Many of them live to tell the story.

9:21 AM
latest news said...
khmer should Reaize

9:25 AM
latest news 2 said...
khmer should realize

9:26 AM
Anonymous said...
There is a powerful God in the existence. He is the Almighty God who will judge all mankind according to all deeds committed.

And hell is an actual place no one should doubt its existence. Buddhism also teaches about hell, a tormenting place for all sinful souls. There are good and bad individuals in all lands in this little planet.

Perhaps \"one day\" all mankind will witness indescribable horror while they are still breathing and alive when heaven opens up with madness. The Judgment Day.

These cruel Thais are no worst than some Khmers in srok Khmer who would rape/kill children. Read the daily on line news of Koh Santepheap and you\'ll get sick in the spirit.


10:20 AM
Hean Padhi said...
This is really a serious problem, that Thai government should consider on. We know that Thailand is a peaceful nation and independent since its birth in Southease Asia, but Thailand has been lacking a sympathy and tolerance, in particular with its neighbours (refugee included).

Thailand, is of course, a buddhism country, would be a non-violent follower of Buddha rather than being Buddha\'s enemy!

Buddha will never support any cruel man (Thai people), and he will comdemn all those cruel to live in hell!

I never support Thai people, and its government for a long time because this nation had never recognised even itseft, and its neighbours! It has a stupid blood and very agressive!

Hean Padhi,
011 891 240

10:26 AM
Anonymous said...
That looks like something that would happened in Burma, not Thailand.

10:51 AM
Anonymous said...
I can assure you that Thai or Siam people are not cruel like this. They are Buddhists and they know Bapkam. If it happened in Thailand, the dictator Thai military did but not the people.

4:01 PM
Anonymous said...
Stop accusing Buddha!
but communism has no religion as you have seen between 70-79 and nowdays you beleive that Tep Vong ,Sihanouk,Hun sen,Hoklundy,Hor nam hong,Ieng sary,Nuon chea,Khiev samphan,Le ductho are Buddism?

\"If a man\'s mind becomes pure, his surroundings will also become pure.\" - Buddha
I knew that some sodier of thai are killers;I have seen my self according to Preah Vihear repatriated 1979 and in the Camp of refugee in Khoa Idang and Kamput camp.

Korn Khmer on Jan 30, 2009 at 08:00:18 said:

What do Buddhists learn from this lesson? We must be compassionate for the unfortunates, even if they're your enemies. At the end, it's karma that decide who wins and who loses. It's the practice of loving another human being that dictated whether you have good or bad karmas or go to heaven or hell. As they say;" What comes around, goes around". So be mindful of what you do.

Eversince, Siem(old name for Thai) gained her independent for Khmer(Cambodia)Empire in the 14th century throught the system of betrayal and deception by allying herself with the invading Mongols, she has been nothing but a witch. Basically,Tai (Thai) are small monority of southern Chinese descent fighting the invading Mongols. They sought refuge with the Khmer, they became Khmer with Tai ancestry(that is why Thai are almost identical to Khmer, culturally). They were recruited to fight the invading Cham of Champa(modern day Central Vietnam).Afterward, they betrayed the Khmer and fought for their own independence. Everince she has been nothing but an invader.Thailand has shown little or no friendliness toward her neighbors. Cambodia refer to Thailand as a "Tiger". She is invasive, hostile, and manipulative for her own gain. She will try to eat her neighbors when she needs a meal. This is the attitudes of Thailand. She doesn't have one neighbor to trust. She waged war with Khmer( Cambodia) countless of times for her territorial expansions.The latest, the Preah Vihea. It's a matter of time until her neighbors gain up and wipe her out from the map of SouthEast Asia.

Malin/Hem on Jan 30, 2009 at 07:12:12 said:

This is not new to the world but Thai (Siem) militaries had abused Cambodian (khmer) refugees in Camp Koa I Dang. And alos dump Khmer refugees down in Dangrek Mountain near Preah Vihear back to Cambodian land. Thousands died step on mines.

keel on Jan 30, 2009 at 02:23:33 said:

i remember when i was in lao refugee napho camp. those thai police used laos people that worked for them came in the camp lure us out the camp to go city then police came arrested us ; put in jail ransome for money 500 bath per head ; no court ; no paper. after i got transfer to transit camp ; soon i got off the bus they came beat me up because i look like vietnames and later on they came in my room beat me up cause i was sick can get out the bed fast enough. im laotian i know what real thai peoples do. they practice the law...no evidence ; no get cause ; no see . they will do anything to other. may be a half of thai are real buddhism. the rest is corrupted....

Baranski. So on Jan 29, 2009 at 09:11:58 said:

This is not a first time that Thai done this to the refugees.it happen to me too when was in Thai camp from 80-82.Thai alway want to invad Cambodia.one day Thai will pay what done.Thai weak ,they are not the figther they are chicken when it come to a war.

Jose on Jan 29, 2009 at 08:18:13 said:

I agree Thailand is paying their karma, they have become the whores of the world. Old western men go to Thailand to have sex with 20 year old Thai boys and girls for $30. Thailand will welcome all the sex tourist but will not welcome refugee's. A lot of the wanted pedophiles are captured here after spending years molesting Thai minors who's parents consent to selling their children.

Daniel Lion on Jan 29, 2009 at 08:06:03 said:

Yes, after living in Thailand for three and a half years, this butchering does not surprise me. The state is ruthless.

mike goldberg on Jan 29, 2009 at 06:51:32 said:

Maybe Thailand is already paying for their very, very bad karma created by murdering refugees and supporting a murderous government in Burma. Their internal politics have become bitterly polarized in what could be a permanent way. They deserve it.




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