Category Archives: Arrest, Detention and Deportation
PHUKET – Police are looking for 30 Rohingya migrants who are still missing after they and six others escaped from the detention centre in this southern province on Sunday.
They fled from the central Phuket immigration office at 3am and only six have been recaptured by immigration authorities, police said.
The authorities were tight-lipped after the Rohingya, detained on charges of illegally entering the country, escaped, but reports were later confirmed by Phuket governor Maitree Inthusut, who ordered tightened security at the centre in Muang district.
Mr Maitree suspected that they were frustrated at being detained for so long at the centre. The group had been detained there since March.
Pol Maj Gen Chote Chawalwiwa, chief of Phuket police, alerted all police stations, public transport operators, local media and the public to keep an eye out for the escaped migrants. He said it was feared they would commit crimes and damage the image of the resort island.
It was the second escape of Muslim asylum seekers in Thailand in three days.
On Friday, 30 Rohingya detained in Sadao district of Songkhla province escaped from a police jail cell.
More than 1,700 asylum seekers from Myanmar who arrived in Thailand by boat early this year are being held in crowded detention centres, most of them in southern provinces.
By Achadtaya Chuenniran
Published on 11 August 2013
30 Muslim Rohingya escape police jail cell in Thailand after being moved from crowded prison, Washington Post
BANGKOK — Thirty Muslim Rohingya asylum seekers from Myanmar detained in southern Thailand for illegally entering the country escaped from a police jail cell on Friday, 10 days after they were moved from a crowded detention center, police said.
More than 1,700 asylum seekers from Myanmar’s beleaguered Rohingya minority who arrived in Thailand by boat early this year are being held in crowded prisons. The 30 who escaped are among hundreds who protested last month against the cramped conditions.
The men used blades to cut the cell’s bars and used ropes made of clothes to escape from the Sadao district police station in Songkhla province early Friday, Police Maj. Gen. Suwit Choensiri said.
He said police found the cell empty when they brought up food and water.
“These men had been making noise and sang loudly every night since they got here. We suspect they were trying to drown out the noise from cutting the bars,” Suwit said by telephone.
Thailand’s government initially said the asylum seekers could stay in the country for six months, but extended the deadline indefinitely. Human rights activists have called for authorities not to deport the Rohingya back to Myanmar, where they face widespread discrimination.
“Not only were (the escapees) stressed out because they lacked space, but also they were frustrated about the situation as they have no idea about their future,” Suwit said. “If found, they won’t face charges for escaping, but we will have to be more careful now.”
He said police were checking closed circuit television footage to trace the men.
Sectarian violence in Myanmar involving the Rohingya has left hundreds dead and many more homeless since last year. Most of the homeless have elected to travel to other countries.
Early this year, Thai authorities conducted several raids in the southern provinces and detained hundreds of Rohingya refugees.
By Associated Press
Published on 9 August 2013
Some 260 Rohingya refugees who have been held captive for almost seven months tried yesterday to break out of the Phang Nga Immigration Centre to celebrate the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The riot began at about 9am when some inmates tore down the doors separating three detention cells.
They reportedly shouted and stormed the main gate to get out of the building. A team of about 300 officers rushed in to control the situation.
Negotiators including a religious leader and representatives of human-rights groups were sent in to calm them down but the detainees insisted on joining the Hari Raya Eid-al-Fitri celebration outside.
Pol Maj-General Chalit Kaewyarat, provincial police chief, said the men were upset that they were not allow to celebrate outside and since the facility was short on staff, some Rohingya incited a mob to press their demands.
Authorities managed to disperse the rally at about 3pm. The protesters were divided into small groups to be sent to police stations in Phang Nga province.
Last month, 18 Rohingya escaped from the Phang Nga Shelter for Children and Families and five were recaptured in Chumphon.
From January 14 to March 26, Phang Nga has apprehended 953 Rohingya boat people who had fled their restive state in Myanmar to seek a new start in Malaysia and Indonesia. The Immigration Centre took custody of 261 Rohingya while the Shelter for Children and Families accommodated 43 Rohingya.
By Anothai Ngandee
Published on 9 August 2013
More than 200 Shan migrant workers in Chiang Mai have been arrested in apparent retaliation for a clash between a gang of Shan youths and Thais.
Rumours that a Thai youth had been stabbed and killed in the attack have spread through social media and the ensuing public outcry appears to have prompted the police to carry out an unprecedented crackdown.
U Myo Aung, a teacher who conducts outreach programs in migrant communities, said there have been similar crackdowns before but nothing of this scale or duration.
“It’s very strange,” he said. “They have checkpoints far outside the city [checking identification papers] … It’s like they want to arrest everybody.”
Police have denied any link between the rumoured attack and the crackdown on migrants.
“Officials only arrested illegal migrants. They arrested 215 migrants and seized 21 motorbikes, pistols and guns on Monday and Tuesday, July 1-2. Those arrested include ones that committed crimes and those without legal documents,” provincial police chief Lt-Gen Suthep told local media on July 3.
However, migrants say they are sceptical that there is no link because similar sweeps of migrant workers in the past have only occurred after members of the Shan community have been accused of a major crime.
The most recent example was a crackdown in 2007 after a university student in Chiang Mai was allegedly raped by a group of Shan men.
Sources in the region confirmed that more than 200 Myanmar nationals are being held as illegal immigrants and awaiting deportation. Many activists are concerned about the abuse and exploitation that the deportation process is likely to inflict on them.
Sai Toom Mawk Harn, a coordinator with the Migrant Action Program (MAP) in Chiang Mai, said Thai authorities deport most Myanmar migrants by driving them to the border and essentially pushing them onto the other side, often into the hands of people who will exploit them. He said the migrants currently in jail are almost all economic refugees with “nowhere to go” in Myanmar and will likely be willing to pay to return to Thailand.
Among NGOs and human rights workers, the process is euphemistically referred to as “soft deportation”, and is in contravention of the immigration rules in both countries.
“For Thai immigration, arranging a formal deportation is more of a hassle because it has to be sorted bureaucratically with the Burmese side and importantly, from the perspective of the Thai officials, there is no money to be made from it,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.
“What we have heard from migrants is that they are often unofficially pushed out by the Thai government … If you want to come back to Thailand you have to pay a broker,” said Sai Toom Mawk Harn.
Members of the Shan Youth Power Group, which provides education and health services to migrant communities around Chiang Mai, said they have encountered many returning migrants who tell the same stories of abuse and extortion all along the Thai-Myanmar border.
The situation has changed little since 2010 when Human Rights Watch released the report “From the Tiger to the Crocodile: Abuse of Migrant Workers in Thailand”. The group interviewed scores of migrant workers who explained how deportation has become a money-making tool for groups on both sides of the border.
One section of the report stated, “Human Rights Watch spoke to half a dozen migrant workers who described being deported by boat across the Moei River and met by brokers and armed [Democratic Karen Buddhist Army] troops who then expected payments in exchange for their release.”
Entering Thailand is already a fraught and costly process for migrant workers, who are forced to pay exorbitant fees for job placements and travel documents. Once a migrant in deported, they must repeat the process if they want to return.
“Since migrants in custody are pretty well fleeced by Thai police and immigration officers, they don’t have much money with them when faced with this situation. So many times these deals are the particularly dangerous sorts of ‘travel now, pay later’ that make migrants vulnerable to human trafficking,” said Mr Robertson, who co-authored the 2010 report.
Both the Yangon and Bangkok offices of the International Organization for Migration could not be reached for comment on this story.
For migrants living and working in Chiang Mai, the increased threat of deportation and exploitation looms large and many live in fear of the local authorities. Members of the Shan Youth Power Group said that in the communities they work in most people only leave their homes to go to work.
“The recurring problem is many Thai police and immigration officials see migrants as the equivalent of walking ATM machines who can be detained and extorted with total impunity,” Mr Robertson said. “While in detention, migrants frequently face beatings, and women suffer sexual abuse, before being sent on a so-called ‘soft deportation’ that places the migrants into the hands of smugglers or traffickers. Taken together, it’s a tour de force of abuse and exploitation that explains why migrants so fear Thai authorities.”
By Bill O’Toole
Published on 15 July 2013
The raid carried out by the Department of Special Investigation and the Labour Ministry on Friday that detained around 2,000 migrant workers in a housing complex in Chon Buri requires an explanation from the government. If it was a one-off operation, it will have accomplished little other than cause hardships for the workers involved. If it is part of a larger crackdown on illegal migrants, as suggested by the involvement of both the DSI and the Labour Ministry, the raid has major implications for the workers but also several important economic sectors that rely heavily on migrant labour, both documented and undocumented.
There are, of course, a great many similar migrant workers’ communities scattered around the country that provide a steady source of manpower for certain sectors, the garment and fisheries industries in particular.
Although the government has warned for some time that a crackdown on illegal immigrants was coming, this raid seemed to come from out of the blue and the timing is odd.
An April 13 deadline had been set for the employer-aided registration of undocumented workers. Employment Department statistics indicate that as of early this month a total of 54,702 employers had submitted quotas to hire 414,820 migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos under the memorandum of understanding Thailand had signed with these countries. But on April 5 the Labour Ministry announced that it would seek cabinet approval to extend the verification period for an estimated 400,000 remaining unregistered alien workers by another 120 days to give the one-stop centres set up to process the applications time to do their work.
It is strange therefore that this raid was carried out when so many unregistered workers are in limbo due to factors out of their control, especially as Employment Department chief Prawit Khiangpol said that during the 120-day extension period unregistered migrant workers applying for the verification process would not be arrested. While it isn’t clear if any workers were formally arrested in Chon Buri, many are almost certainly being detained for an unspecified period, and some of them are probably fully documented workers.
The authorities involved in the raid said they were detaining workers who had failed to present work permits or official employment documents, pending proof from their employers that they were legally employed. This strongly implies that in some cases at least these documents are being kept by their employers and not with the workers or at their place of residence. The workers should be allowed to keep official copies of their own documents to give them some protection during such clandestine raids and in dealing with the authorities in their daily lives.
The raid in Chon Buri starkly demonstrates the powerlessness of most migrant workers live in this country. In many cases they are basically indentured servants, and we have all seen reports from human rights groups describing conditions of actual slavery for some migrant workers, particularly in the fisheries industry. It is common knowledge that some migrant workers are essentially held hostage by the trafficking gangs that bring them here.
When fully online the government’s migrant worker documentation programme should go a long way toward ending such abuses, but the process needs to be streamlined and protective measures need to be implemented.
The fact is that Thailand needs these workers and they should be allowed to stay here with dignity. But looking at the picture at the top of page two of yesterday’s Bangkok Post, it is clear that wasn’t happening on Friday in Chon Buri. The picture shows a group of mostly young, nervous looking workers sitting in front of their primitive housing complex where they sleep on average more than three to a small room, waiting patiently on the whims of the authorities.
Whether Friday’s raid was the first wave of a new get-tough government policy on illegal migrant workers or just an isolated operation, those responsible should be asked what they hoped to accomplish. According to the Employment Department the verification process is swamped and needs several more months to be completed. At the least all such raids should be put off until then.
In the meantime, watchdog government agencies should be set up or strengthened to look after the rights of migrant workers, and the justice system should be geared toward swiftly prosecuting those who take unfair advantage of them.
By Bangkok Post
Published on 28 April 2013