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American Nicole Lemmo, who discovered them, told The Phuket News this morning that around 7pm she and two friends were sitting in front of their rented accommodation in the Sri Phang Nga National Park.
“We did not understand him at first as he spoke only Bengali, so we informed the park officers,” Ms Lemmo explained.
“The officers came to see him and then discovered there were around 80 more men on the street outside. Around 80 per cent were Bangladeshi and the rest were, I believe, Rohingya.
“They all were starving and exhausted. Some no longer had the strength to walk.”
National park officers cooked food for the refugees and then around 9pm, Kuraburi Police came with trucks and took them to the district office where they bedded them down in a community hall.
Ms Lemmo said that this morning (November 12), when authorities talked with the new arrivals through a Burmese translator, the refugees – 86 of them – revealed that they had boarded a boat in Bangladesh, hoping to get to Malaysia.
They said they discovered after 20 days at sea, before the boat washed up in Thailand, that the two or three men running the boat had plans to sell them.
Ms Lemmo said, “It is human trafficking. They were brought to sell in Malaysia.
“After landing in Thailand, the men who brought them disappeared, dumping them in the jungle in Kuraburi, [where they stumbled around] for five days before they found us.
“Some of them told the translator that they wanted to go back to Bangladesh.”
Anupat Rodkwan Yodrabam, Kuraburi District Chief stressed to The Phuket News that the 86 refugees are being well taken care of.
“We have provided them with food, water and accommodation in the community hall for the time being.
“This morning a doctor from Kuraburi hospital and officers from Kuraburi Public Health Office came to give them check-ups and we also registered their names and details,” he said.
“It is not yet clear whether the Burmese contingent are Rohingya or not. We are in the process of getting detailed information from them because we are not sure what they need.”
For now, he said, the authorities can meet the basic needs of the refugees. Anyone who wants to donate money or goods to help out should contact the Kuraburi District Office at 076 491 353.
Later in the day it was revealed that at least 12 of those originally thought to be Rohingya are in fact Burmese. The others are still being identified.