Thailand has denied accusations that its security forces shot dead at least two Rohingya migrants fleeing sectarian violence in Myanmar.

Thai officials rejected the report by Human Rights Watch alleging that Thai soldiers had opened fire on around 20 Rohingya refugees, killing two of them, as they jumped overboard fearing they would be separated from their family in a botched boat transfer near the Kuraburi district, southern Phang Nga province.

“The Thai navy commander responsible for that area has rejected the report,” said foreign ministry spokesman Manasvi Srisodapol, adding there is “no reason to shoot or hurt” Rohingya refugees.

Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Thanathip Sawangsang said Thailand acts “on humanitarian principles”, providing food and water before towing the boat back out at sea to continue south, reports AFP.

However, Thailand has faced criticism for pushing Rohingya boats to Malaysia or detaining them as illegal migrants. Thai officials were also accused of being involved in the trafficking of Rohingya refugees.

The Thai government has repeatedly promised to investigate all allegations of human rights violations against the Rohingya – the most persecuted minority group in the world according to the UN.