Extraordinary photos obtained by CNN from someone directly involved in the Thai operation show refugees on their rickety boats being towed out to sea, cut loose and abandoned.
One photo shows the Thai army towing a boatload of some 190 refugees far out to sea.
In one hamlet, villagers had captured a Rohingya man they believed had been living in the jungle for days.
The refugee, who identified himself as Iqbal Hussain, told CNN he was on one of six boats in a makeshift refugee fleet that arrived in Thailand in December.
He said all six boats with their refugee cargo were towed back out to sea in January, and five of the six boats sank. His boat made it back to shore, and he hid in the jungle for days until nearby villagers captured him.
In broken English and using sign language and drawings, he described what happened to the other men on the boats:
"All men dead," he said, putting the number of dead at several hundred.