Category Archives: Death by Suffocation of 54 Burmese Migrants

Still no prosecution in tragic death of 54 Myanmar migrants, Mathaba Net News

Although 66 survivors in the same vehicle have become witnesses during the investigation, their smugglers have yet to be brought to justice.

The tragic death of 54 illegal Myanmar migrants from suffocation in a seafood container in Ranong province eight months ago, has drawn great attention to the plight of Myanmar job seekers who are willing to risk their lives in search of what they believe to be a better life. Yet eight months on….the prosecution of the smugglers has proven no easy task.

This cemetery became the unwanted destination of those ill-fated Myanmar illegal migrants who died of suffocation while crammed in an unventilated seafood container in April 2008 in the southern Thai province of Ranong.

Although 66 survivors in the same vehicle have become witnesses during the investigation, their smugglers have yet to be brought to justice.

According to a report of the Department of Special Investigation or DSI, migrant worker smuggling gangs in Ranong, just opposite Myanmar shoreline, are a thriving business, with about 12 Thai smuggling syndicates working closely with them. The criminal networks have become more powerful by using violence against those who turn against them.

“As the trial went on, our witness was shot dead. The gangs used violence to threaten the migrant workers,” said Pol Lt-Col Pongin Inthornkao, a DSI investigator.

Because of a legal loophole, 8 people accused in the April 10 suffocation tragedy were filed only with light charge– providing shelter for illegal migrants and causing death to other persons by recklessness. The 66 Myanmar survivors were charged with illegal entry.

“Only a charge of recklessness causing death to a person can’t lead to the seizure of the assets of any wrongdoer under the money laundering bill,” said Thanu Eakchote, a lawyer of Myanmar survivors.

Although a new law to strictly prevent human trafficking was enforced in mid 2008, law-enforcement agencies express concern it might not bring wrongdoers to conviction as the new law can be enforced only if a forced labour case occurs.

The tragic April 2008 death of the Myanmar illegal migrants was not the first time it’s happened. Since 2007, at least 92 Myanmar migrants have died, while an unknown number have been smuggled into the kingdom. But despite an uncertain fate awaiting at their destination, it seems unlikely to deter Myanmar migrants from fleeing poor conditions in their homeland in search of a better life.

Compensation awarded to migrants’ families, Democratic Voice of Burma

The families of 54 Burmese migrants who suffocated to death in a lorry in Thailand in April are to receive compensation from the Thai government and the vehicle owner.

Htoo Chit, director of the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma in Phang Nga province, Thailand, praised the work of NGOs in bringing about the decision.

“After the hard work done by NGOs based in Thailand – the Migrant Assistance Programme Foundation, the Burmese Labour Union and the Lawyers’ Council of Thailand – compensation for the 54 Burmese migrants who died in April will be paid to their families,” Htoo Chit said.

“[They will receive] 35,000 baht each from the company that owned the vehicle and 65,000 baht from the Thai government.”

But Htoo Chit expressed concern that the money might not reach its intended recipients in Burma.

“The money will be channelled through the Burmese government and we are worried that those who are supposed to get it might not,” he said.

Around 40 NGO representatives and activists went to the Thai Ministry of Justice on 22 April to lay a wreath and present a letter calling on the ministry not to immediately deport the survivors of the incident back to Burma and to consider providing compensation to the families of those who died.

Reporting by Aye Nai

Burmese receive 35,000 baht in suffocation cases, Bangkok Post

An insurance company will initially pay 35,000 baht ($1,044) to relatives of each Burmese migrant worker who died from suffocation in the back of a seafood truck in southern Ranong province, a senior Thai Justice Ministry official said Tuesday.

Suwanna Suwanjutha, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, said the insurance firm had paid the money to relatives of the migrant workers who died on April 9 due to suffocation.

The incident occurred because the driver apparently failed to turn on the air conditioning in the container, which was normally used to transport frozen food. A total of 121 people had been crammed inside the container only six metres long and 2.2 metres wide.

Mrs Suwanna said the money would be awarded to relatives of 34 of the victims at Burma’s Victoria Point so that they would not have to travel to Thailand to receive compensation. The company is now compiling documents and will pay compensation to relatives of the 20 remaining victims.

Another 65,000 baht will be paid to relatives of each victim in accordance with the Thailand’s automobile accident law if the victims were found to have not committed any crime.

Of the remaining survivors, Thai police investigators have taken 10 of them as witnesses, while others have been repatriated to Burma. (TNA)

Families of suffocated Myanmar workers’ awarded Bt35,000 each, MCOT

An insurance company will initially pay Bt35,000 (US$1,044) to relatives of each Myanmar migrant worker who died from suffocation in the back of a seafood truck in the southern Thai province of Ranong bordering Myanmar earlier this year, a senior Thai Justice Ministry official said Tuesday.

Suwanna Suwanjutha, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, said the insurance firm had paid the money to relatives of the Myanmar migrant workers who died on April 9 due to suffocation.

The incident occurred because the driver apparently failed to turn on the air conditioning in the container, which was normally used to transport frozen food. A total of 121 people had been crammed inside the container only six metres long and 2.2 metres wide.

Mrs. Suwanna said the money would be awarded to relatives of 34 of the 54 victims at Myanmar’s Victoria Point bordering Thailand’s Ranong province, so that they would not have to travel to Thailand to receive the compensation. The company is now compiling documents tol pay compensation to relatives of the 20 remaining victims.

Another Bt65,000 will be paid to relatives of each victim in accordance with Thailand’s automobile accident law if the victims were found to have not committed any crime.

Of the remaining survivors, Thai police investigators have taken 10 of them as witnesses, while others have been repatriated to Myanmar, also known as Burma. (TNA)

Death truck survivors happy to go home, Bangkok Post

The last 10 illegal Burmese immigrants who survived the cold-storage truck tragedy in Ranong province in April were repatriated yesterday.

They were seen off at the Ranong immigration checkpoint by Thai authorities, including provincial governor Kanchanapha Keeman and Thai immigration police. They left from the Andaman Club pier, where Burmese immigration and anti-human-trafficking officials were waiting for them.

Before their departure, the 10 Burmese received clothes and other supplies from the World Vision Foundation. All of them were smiling and happy to return home.

The four children and six adults had been kept as witnesses for the trial of six Thais who were charged with causing the suffocation tragedy.

The final 10 survivors were among 120 Burmese immigrants who were hidden in a cold storage container aboard a 10-wheel truck that left Ranong for Phuket on April 9. Along the way, 54 of them suffocated when the ventilation failed.

The repatriates will be housed temporarily at a home for the elderly in Kawthaung, a Burmese islet opposite Ranong across the Kraburi river.

There they will join the other 56 survivors from the tragedy, who left Thailand on May 19.

Twenty-five-year-old Htay U, of Moulmein in southeast Burma , said he was very glad to return home. In April, he and a female relative attempted to sneak into Thailand so he might find construction work in Phuket.

She died in the truck and he says he is now too afraid to attempt to try it again.

A 13-year-old girl called Mi Gyi said a member of her family also suffocated. She vowed to never again leave Burma .

WIMOL NOOKAEW

June 9, 2008

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