Category Archives: Thailand

Immigration crackdown nets 2,200 in Isan

KHON KAEN: Immigration police have arrested more than 2,200 foreign and Thai suspects for various offences as part of a crackdown in the Northeast during the past two weeks. Criminal gangs from Cameroon and Colombia are also under close watch, they say.

Teams of officers staged a series of raids that resulted in a total of 2,274 arrests between June 1 and June 14, Pol Maj Gen Natthawat Karndee, commander of Immigration Division 4, said at a briefing in Khon Kaen on Saturday.

Of the suspects, 622 foreigners entered the country illegally, 31 overstayed their visas, 73 were working without permission, 16 were wanted on arrest warrants, 1,245 committed other offences, and 287 had been refused entry, he said.

Immigration police also joined forces with Thap Lan National Park officials to arrest 18 suspects — 15 Cambodian nationals and three Thais — on charges of illegally cutting protected phayung (Siamese rosewood) trees in the forest in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Immigration police in Nakhon Phanom, Ubon Ratchathani and Khon Kaen reported the arrests of Vietnamese and Indian suspects who entered the country illegally using fake passports. They are also suspected of providing illegal money lending services at high interest rates, said Pol Maj Gen Natthawat.

The agency, he added, has also been keeping a close watch on Colombian and Cameroonian criminals who have fled to the country. Some had committed offences in Thailand such as snatching bags and committing thefts and home break-ins. Some Cameroonian gangsters carried weapons, he added.

 Written by Chakrapan Nathanri
Source: Bangkok Post
Published on 15 June 2019
Link: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1695752/immigration-crackdown-nets-2-200-in-isan

Spectre of debt leaves migrant workers ill at ease

The International Day of Family Remittances — celebrated on the 16th of June each year — recognises the efforts of 200 million migrants across the world who send home billions of dollars which sustains 800 million people in their home countries. Remittances are a major contributor to development and approximately 40% of them go to rural areas where poverty is a pressing issue.

However, a worrying trend surrounding remittances is emerging in Southeast Asia.

The benefits of income earned abroad are gradually being eroded by the ever-increasing debt burden faced by many migrants and their families. In a region where debt has become part of life among low-income households, the precarious situation that families may find themselves in often remains under-discussed outside of academia.

Phany’s family from Cambodia is an example of a family in crisis. For years, Phany has been struggling to make ends meet following the death of her husband. The multiple loans which she took out to help finance her two sons’ migration to Thailand on three occasions have resulted in mixed outcomes.

Her sons’ first migration experience was positive. Having followed a neighbour who had extensive experience working in Thailand’s fishing sector, they earned enough to save and remit money back home each month. Together, the family saved enough to buy a small plot of land and materials to improve the small home they shared back in Cambodia. However, things took a turn for the worse on the pair’s second and third migration undertakings.

On their second journey, the boat they worked on moved into international waters and began fishing illegally. It was apprehended by Indonesian authorities and the boys were sent to prison. They were subsequently identified as victims of forced labour and returned to Cambodia with the help of the International Organisation of Migration (IOM).

During their attempt, their fishing boat entered Malaysian waters and was piloted by a Thai captain who was violent. In addition to having boiling water thrown at them, the boys were paid only half of the 10,000 baht monthly salary they had been promised. Desperate to escape, the pair called Phany, and with an additional 31,500 baht she borrowed, they were able to escape and return to Cambodia. The family still struggles to pay off that debt today.

Stories like those of Phany and her boys’ illustrate the central role debt can play in the daily lives of migrants and their families. Debt has the countervailing potential to both mediate and create risk. Loans can provide migrants access to opportunities to work abroad, pay off household debt and improve living conditions back home. On the other hand, it can also create conditions where migration becomes more burdensome than helpful.

For Phany, the loans undertaken to finance her sons’ migrations have been a double-edged sword. Her sons’ first migration journey enabled them to send remittances that contributed to poverty reduction for her family. On the other hand, Phany became over-indebted as a result of her sons’ remigration and exploitation on their second and third journeys, highlighting the fact that debt is a complex issue that needs to be viewed in relation to other forms of vulnerability.

Debt is often a primary cause of migration in rural Southeast Asia. Many households routinely take on loans to cope with acute crises such as illness and failed crops. When the amount undertaken far exceeds average income, migration can be seen as a coping strategy in response to debt stress.

Research indicates that an increasing number of remittance-receiving rural households have reported the repayment of debt as the main use of remittances. This leaves little potential for earnings to be channelled to other uses such as savings, education or livelihood improvement initiatives.

A strong link also exists between indebtedness and increased vulnerability to trafficking and related exploitation. Migration in Southeast Asia typically involves prohibitive recruitment fees and migrants often take on additional debt to fund their journeys. Repayment can take anywhere from several months to years.

In the recently-published IOM study “Debt and the Migration Experience: Insights from Southeast Asia”, migrants in debt were found to be more likely to make potentially risky choices, often accepting and choosing to remain in jobs with poor working conditions. Wage deductions which can be used by employers to cover the cost of recruitment and migration often discourage workers from changing jobs or leaving.

Prospects for those who return home in debt can be bleak. Indebted returnees are more likely to encounter financial insecurity due to a lack of savings or difficulties in finding decent work. In addition to reduced financial status, indebted returnees also typically face social and psychosocial problems, including shame, embarrassment and discrimination in their communities, as well as harassment and violence from lenders.

With one in six migrants in the region struggling with debt upon return to their countries of origin, there is a real need for governments, private sector entities, and civil society to find ways to alleviate this significant burden.

A plethora of solutions are available, including strengthened social protection programmes, increased financial literacy, improved oversight and regulation around credit provision, simplified access to legal migration pathways and expanded monitoring of labour rights violations.

A solution commonly promoted by migration practitioners is to have recruitment costs borne by employers rather than workers. A shift to the “employer-pays” model would not only protect migrant workers from indebtedness linked to recruitment but also incentivise good labour practices. If employers bore the costs of worker recruitment, they would have powerful incentives to retain workers, including by providing decent working conditions.

Tackling the issue of debt and reducing vulnerabilities faced by indebted migrants and their families is a long-term endeavour and interventions are necessary across a range of levels and at multiple moments during the migration and return experience. Only then, can the full benefits of remittances in relation to poverty reduction and development can be realised.

Dana Graber Ladek is Chief of Mission of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Mission in Thailand.

 Written by Dana Graber Ladek
Source: Bangkok Post
Published on 15 June 2019
Link: https://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/1695484/spectre-of-debt-leaves-migrant-workers-ill-at-ease

18 starving migrants caught in Songkhla forest

SONGKHLA: Eighteen illegal Myanmar migrant workers were arrested on Friday after they had been in hiding in a forest in Sadao district for four days without food while waiting for transport to Malaysia. A Myanmar woman who took care of the illegal migrants was later caught.

A team of anti-human trafficking officials, police and soldiers found the migrants in a forest in tambon Khao Meekiart, about 2km deep from Khlong Ngae-Na Thawi Road on Friday morning.

The group of 16 men and two women took refuge in a makeshift tent camouflaged by leaves, said a member of the team.

Authorities extended the investigation to arrest a Myanmar caretaker at a rented room in tambon Khlong Ngae of Sadao district. The woman was tasked with taking care of them.

The migrants told police via an interpreter that a broker had sent them to the forest four days ago and they were told not to make any noise. While hiding, they ate banana stems and drank water from a creek for their survival.

The Myanmar caretaker told police she did not send them food because Malaysian brokers had not transferred money to her. With no money, she had to leave her countrymen in the forest until a vehicle was sent to transport them to Malaysia.

An official said illegal migrant workers from Myanmar usually left their country during this time of year. They sneak across the Thai-Myanmar borders in small groups before gathering along border areas near Malaysia to wait for transport into the country.

Written by Assawin Pakkawan
Source: Bangkok Post
Published on 14 June 2019
Link: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1695208/18-starving-migrants-caught-in-songkhla-forest

Thai Immigration in Mae Sai Sends 22 Migrant Workers Back to Tachilek, Myanmar

CHIANG RAI – Immigration officials in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai handed 22 migrant workers from Burma over to their Burmese counterparts in Tachilek on Tuesday following their arrest for working in Thailand with invalid documents.

The handover took place at around 3pm Tuesday on the Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge between Tachilek and Mae Sai in northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province.

The deported workers included 17 men and five women, sources said.

They were arrested for a variety of document-related offenses, including using expired border passes, working in Thailand without official work permits, and working for employers or in locations other than those specified on their work permits.

According to labor activists, the number of migrant workers arrested in Chiang Rai has increased in recent days.

Most of the detained migrants were found to be working in Thailand without passports or other official travel documents.

“There have been many arrests in the past few days. Most were migrant workers without passports. Some of them were under 18 years old,” said a woman who works as an interpreter for detained migrants from Myanmar.

The woman urged Burmese nationals seeking employment in Thailand to ensure that they have official travel documents and work permits. She added that it was also important to make sure that the information on these documents, including the name and address of employers, was accurate.

Earlier this year, Thai authorities deported 896 migrant workers from Burma, including 592 men, 273 women and 31 children.

Source: Chiang Rai Times
Published on 13 June 2019
Link: https://www.chiangraitimes.com/thai-immigration-in-mae-sai-sends-22-migrant-workers-back-to-tachilek-myanmar.html

The National Fisheries Association of Thailand is threatening protests in the capital if the new government ignores its demand to revise strict rules and regulations on trawlers and their crews.

“If these laws aren’t changed, the fishermen will head to Bangkok and camp out in front of the Agriculture Ministry,” association president, Mongkol Sukcharoenkhana, said on Wednesday.

These rules are resulting in a shortage of workers in the fishing sector, forcing many operators out of business, he said.

Association members are due to meet at its general assembly at the Talay Thai wholesale seafood market in Samut Sakhon’s Muang district on June 28, he said.

They plan to discuss the problems which fishing operators have been putting up with over the past five years since the government began implementing measures aimed at curbing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices, he said.

They will also seek remedies to these problems and draft a proposal for the government to compensate them, he said.

On Jan 8 this year, the European Union (EU) announced the lifting of its yellow card warning in recognition of the substantial progress Thailand has made in tackling IUU fishing since 2015.

The yellow card prompted Thailand to overhaul its fishing industry to meet international standards so as to avoid a threatened EU ban on Thai seafood imports.

Adisorn Phromthep, director-general of the Department of Fisheries, said the reforms were necessary as they should bring sustainability to the country’s fishing sector.

They are also crucial to ensure transparency and traceability in every fishing process, he said.

To help ease the burden on fishing operators who have to provide paperwork to comply with requirements, the department has developed an electronic system called “Fisheries Single Window”.

Since all fishery products are recorded with Marine Catch Purchasing Document numbers, buyers can determine where a particular product was caught, by which trawler, when, and who the crew were, Mr Adisorn said.

Thai fishing operators are buying some fishery products from neighbouring countries which are still being monitored for IUU problems, he said.

Source: Bangkok Post
Published on 13 June 2019
Link: https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1694068/fisheries-leaders-threaten-protests-in-the-capital

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