The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement issued here that UNHCR staff met the survivors of a boat incident reported in the southern Thai province of Phang Nga, cross-checked their accounts with other sources and established that the incident "is the same one reported by boat people who arrived in Aceh, Indonesia on 26 Feb."
UNHCR staff in Indonesia have spoken to some of the 121 arrivals in this group, which includes women and children.
The statement quoted those interviewed in both countries as saying that "they left their village in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state around Feb 5. During the journey lasting three weeks, they ran out of food and water. When intercepted by authorities in Thai waters, they were provided with some assistance and then twice towed from Thai waters out to sea."
"According to converging accounts," the UNHCR said, "at least three shots were fired during interception, but information is conflicting as to whether these were warning shots or actually aimed at the passengers."
"Survivors and local fishermen near Phuket said two dead bodies were recovered from the sea,though it was unclear if the cause of death was shooting or drowning," it said.
UNHCR said it is "gravely concerned that people fleeing unrest could have been turned away and exposed to further distress in their search for safety. We are seeking access to such boats intercepted in the high seas."
Since January, more than 1,800 boat arrivals – the vast majority Rohingya from Myanmar's Rakhine state – have been accepted on Thai soil and provided assistance in shelters and immigration detention facilities mainly in the south, according to statistics cited by the agency.
"UNHCR has welcomed the Thai government’s decision to provide them with six months of temporary protection while solutions are sought," the statement said.