Thailandske styrker skal ha jult opp og deretter tauet flyktninger fra Burma ut til sjøs i båter uten motorer. India hevder at rundt 500 er funnet druknet bare siden slutten av desember. Den nye thailandske statsministeren lover å undersøke påstandene.

Flyktningene kommer fra det vestlige Burma på grensen til Bangladesh. De tilhører rohingya-folket og er muslimer. Det kan være en forklaring på at Thailand ikke ønsker dem. En offiser sier til BBC at de frykter at det kan skjule seg islamister blant dem. Thailand ligger i krig med muslimske opprørere i sør.

Indian officials have told reporters that they have rescued hundreds of Rohingya refugees, who are mostly Muslim and live along the border of Burma and Bangladesh.

«They said they were taken to an island off the Thai coast and beaten up before being forced into boats and pushed into the high seas,» said Ranjit Narayan, a police official on India’s remote Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Coast guard commander SP Sharma told AFP news agency that India had rescued 446 refugees from four boats since the end of December.

Those figures are in line with those of the Sunday Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, which said it had compiled a toll of 538 missing or dead.

Mr Sharma said the migrants said they had been arrested by Thai officials and set adrift without engines or navigational equipment.

«Some survivors also said their boat was towed out to sea by the Thai navy and given two sacks of boiled rice and two gallons of water before being abandoned in the middle of the sea,» he said.

The Bangkok Post newspaper on Sunday carried accounts from survivors.

«We were tied up and put into a boat without an engine… we were then towed into the high seas by a motor boat and set adrift,» a man named as Zaw Min told the paper.

Privately, some Thai military and police sources have admitted to the BBC that this has been happening.

They say the rising numbers of Rohingyas reaching Thailand from Burma or Bangladesh are seen as a security risk, because of fears they may include Islamic militants.

Thailand to tackle migrant claims