16-Year-old Rohingya Girl Dies After Three Years in Thai Detention

(BANGKOK, November 10, 2017)—Thai authorities should immediately investigate the death of Zainab Bi Bi, a 16-year-old Rohingya refugee, who died on November 2 after spending more than three years indefinitely detained in immigration detention facilities and government-run shelters in Thailand, said Fortify Rights today. Zainab Bi Bi reportedly fainted and bled from her nose and ears on October 27 while detained in the Sadao Immigration Detention Center (IDC). She died six days later.

“Zainab Bi Bi’s death is a tragedy that should spur Thai authorities to take immediate action to end the indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers,” said Amy Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights. “Instead of receiving the highest level of care and protection as a refugee child, Zainab Bi Bi died behind bars.”

On October 27, Thai authorities at the Sadao IDC transferred Zainab Bi Bi to the Hat Yai Hospital in Songkhla Province. Fortify Rights obtained information indicating that she died from bleeding in her brain and an alleged blood-clotting disorder, which results in easy or excessive bruising and bleeding. 

Thai authorities detained Zainab Bi Bi for more than three years in government-run shelters and IDCs after being trafficked from Myanmar to Thailand in 2014. In 2015, the Thai authorities transferred Zainab Bi Bi to the Sadao IDC from a shelter run by the Minister of Social Development and Human Security Zainab Bi Bi received treatment at the Sadao Hospital for the alleged blood clotting disorder several times during the months before her death.

Earlier this year, a Pakistani asylum seeker died in Suan Phlu IDC after suffering a heart attack. According to our investigation, at least 3 detainees in Bangkok’s Suan Phlu IDC died this year. 

In 2016, Fortify Rights documented inhumane conditions in the Sadao IDC. Rohingya detainees at Sadao IDC told Fortify Rights they were confined indoors 24-hours a day in overcrowded, unsanitary cells without access to adequate hygiene amenities, adequate food, physical exercise, or appropriate medical treatment. 

“Thailand’s immigration centers are notorious for failing to meet basic minimum standards,” said Amy Smith. “Detention cells are not a safe or appropriate place for refugee children.”

Currently, 16 Rohingya refugees—seven women and nine men—are detained in the Sadao IDC. 

Thailand should immediately release all refugees and asylum seekers arbitrarily detained, including those recently detained in raids that took place in Bangkok last week. 

When a state deprives a person of their liberty, it assumes a duty of care for that person and is obligated to ensure the conditions of detention are in line with international standards. However, states should never detain children or refugees solely based on their immigration status.

“Zainab Bi Bi’s death should not go unnoticed. Thailand needs to immediately reverse it’s appalling treatment of refugees,” said Amy Smith. “Thailand should not let another refugee die behind bars like a criminal.”

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