PHUKET: Three boats laden with Rohingya men and boys have been apprehended off the Andaman coast of Thailand today, according to reports.
Two of the boats came ashore at Ko Chang, an island near Thailand's border with Burma that bears the same name as a tourist destination in the Gulf of Thailand.
The third boat landed at Ko Sinhi, an island 18 kilometres from Ranong, a large Thai border port.
The first boat at Ko Chang landed at 7am with 170 people - an unusually high number - on board.
A second boat landed at 9.40am and the third vessel reached Ko Sinhi at 11am.
It's not known how many people were on board the second and third vessels.
All three groups were apprehended by the Royal Thai Navy, usually reliable sources have told Phuketwan.
The current whereabouts of the people on the boats in not known.
Boats have been leaving ports in Bangladesh or Rakhine state in Burma (Myanmar), scene of deadly clashes since June, at the rate of at least one a day since late October.
Why the boats have landed in Thailand so far north of Malaysia, the usual destination for the Muslim-minority boatpeople, is not known.
Thailand has been employing a ''help on'' policy, intercepting Rohingya vessels if they come too close to the Thai coast and supplying food and water on condition that the passengers sail on, past Thailand.
Deadly battles between Rohingya and Rakhine locals have killed at least 170 people and razed thousands of homes since a rape and murder lit simmering animosity in May.
With thousands of Rohingya forced to live in displaced persons camps where conditions are primitive and where children are said to be malnourished, many are trying to flee by water.
A boatload of 112 men and boys was apprehended when they came ashore at Thai Muang, a short drive north of Phuket, on November 10.
The passengers included included 56 teenagers - the youngest aged just 14. Another 46 people on board were under 26.
Officials in Thailand described them as ''Burmese'' to stifle any suggestion that as Rohingya, they could be categoriesed as refugees.
Phuketwan obtained a list of the names of the men and was able to confirm that they were Rohingya.
All of them were trucked north from Thai Muang the same day, probably to be delivered in Ranong to people smugglers. Because they are stateless non-citizens, Burma does not take them back.
The increased flow of boats leaving Burma is likely to continue until the ''sailing season'' ends with the arrival of the monsoon in April.