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Published: Saturday December 7, 2013 MYT 12:41:12 AM
Updated: Saturday December 7, 2013 MYT 12:41:59 AM

U.S. urges Thai investigation into alleged trafficking

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States called on Thailand on Friday to investigate allegations in a Reuters report that Thai immigration officials delivered Myanmar refugees to human trafficking rings.

"We are aware of reports alleging that Thai officials have been involved in selling Rohingya migrants to human traffickers. We urge the Thai government to conduct a serious and transparent investigation into the matter," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

"We remain deeply concerned about the safety of and humanitarian conditions for vulnerable communities in Burma, including refugees and asylum seekers on Burma's borders and elsewhere in the region," she added.

The United Nations also called for an investigation on Friday. "These allegations need to be investigated urgently," U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Vivian Tan said in a statement.

The Reuters report, published on Thursday and based on a two-month investigation in three countries, revealed a clandestine policy to remove Rohingya refugees from Thailand's immigration detention centres and deliver them to human traffickers waiting at sea.

The Rohingya, stateless Muslims from Myanmar, are then transported across southern Thailand and held hostage in camps hidden near the border with Malaysia until relatives pay ransoms to release them, according to the Reuters report. Some are beaten and some are killed.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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