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BANGKOK (AP) — Thai officials said they discovered 65 ethnic Rohingya Muslim refugees on Tuesday who were shipwrecked and stranded in southern Thailand.
The chief of Tarutao National Marine Park, Kanjanapan Kamhaeng, said the boat carrying the Rohingya was found after several Thai and Myanmar citizens told park officials their ship had broken down. They initially denied they were transporting Rohingya.
Kanjanapan said the boat was found smashed onto a rocky shore and a preliminary check showed it was carrying 65 Rohingya and several Thai and Myanmar citizens who were identified by the Rohingya as in charge of operating the ship.
Kanjanapan said the Thai navy took the group away to be processed by immigration officials.
Navy officer Cmdr. Thanapong Sudrak said authorities will investigate whether the incident involved human trafficking.
Rohingya originate in Rakhine state in Myanmar, where they face extreme persecution by authorities and majority Buddhists, prompting their flight over the years, many on rickety boats that were sometimes pushed back into the open sea by countries such as Thailand.
Attacks by Myanmar's army in 2017 caused more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to overcrowded refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh and elsewhere for safety.
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