U.S. Journalist Involvement

Rohingya refugee boat found drifting in the Andaman Sea by New York Times reporter
Rohingya refugee boat found drifting in the Andaman Sea by New York Times reporter

By spring of 2015, major Western news outlets had become invested in the stories of Rohingya refugees and were sending journalists to Myanmar and Thailand to gather stories and information. In May of 2015, American and British journalists in Thailand were reporting on boats of Rohingya people fleeing from Myanmar that were being turned away from the coast of Thailand.

On May 14th , 2015, a refugee boat was spotted floating in the Andaman Sea between Myanmar and Thailand carrying several hundred people. Earlier calls from a single cell phone on board the boat had been recorded by Chris Lewa, an activist, who was collecting calls from refugees on board the boat who were desperate for food, water, and rescue. She communicated the calls she had received to a New York Times journalist who was in Thailand working on the Rohingya crisis. The reporter contacted the cellphone carrier of the refugee phone in an attempt to locate the boat through, however he was denied access to the records. The reporter, Thomas Fuller, then asked the Thai Navy for aid and was able to get the records necessary to locate the boat.

The Thai Navy, launched a boat to go meet the refugees and a Thai officer told the Times reporter that the press was not allowed. However, a New York Times news teams and a BBC news team were able to take a speedboat out to the refugee boat anchored about 10 minutes from shore. Asides from local fishing boats, the reporters had the only other boat there. They threw extra water bottles from their boat to the refugees on board and took photographs and videos of the boat from the water.

The reporters were able to do what the Thai navy was not, which was to locate the boat and go offer assistance. Both the BBC reporters and the New York Times reporters were shocked at the lack of aid and were unable to provide much themselves. On May 14 the Times reporter published his story. A day later he published another story describing his own involvement in helping to locate the boat. The BBC also published a video taken from the water.


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