Category Archives: Other Migration Issues in Mekong

Embassy Action Urged in Killing of Three Burmese Migrants in Thailand

A Thailand-based migrants’ rights NGO has urged the Burmese government to do more to intervene in a recent murder case in which a trio of Burmese laborers in Thailand were found shot to death by an unknown assailant.

The three migrant workers at a rubber plantation in southern Thailand’s Surat Thani province were shot dead on Friday. The victims, from Mon State in Burma, included a 14-year-old boy, Chit Phu, who was killed along with his brother Kyaw Htoo, 29. The third victim, San Min, was 22 years old.

“The victims were murdered at around 9 pm on Friday night in the field of their rubber plantation,” said Htoo Chit, director of the Foundation for Education Development, an NGO assisting migrant workers in Thailand.

“We were told by neighbors that they heard about 14-15 gunshots at that time, and when they went to check, they found their bodies, shot from close range in their heads and necks,” said Htoo Chit, citing information received from local rubber plantation workers.

“Such murder cases are not uncommon,” Htoo Chit said, adding that in similar cases of migrant workers’ victimization, “no justice was brought.”

In this case, he said, the Burmese Embassy had helped to secure the release of the victims’ bodies from the morgue, with his foundation arranging a proper funeral for the deceased at a monastery in Surat Thani. The bodies are due to be buried on Wednesday, pending the arrival of the victims’ family members to Thailand.

Htoo Chit added that letters had been sent to the embassy, the Burmese Ministry of Labor and Parliament, seeking their intervention in the case.

“It should be a government to government intervention,” he said.

“If the government collaborates more with the local NGOs and with Thai authorities, we could see fewer cases in the future.”

The murder of the three migrant workers comes four months after the high-profile killing of two British tourists on the Thai resort island of Koh Tao. Thai authorities have pinned the murders on two Burmese migrant workers, though human rights groups including Htoo Chit’s foundation have claimed the legal case against the men is deeply flawed.

Aung Myo Thant, a Burmese lawyer working on the Surat Thani migrant workers’ case, said they had not yet made official contact with the relevant Thai law enforcement personnel.

“We heard some people have been detained, but it could not be confirmed yet that they are the perpetrators. We are trying to get as much information as we can, then we will share it with the ambassador and will follow his lead.”


Convicts on fishing boats plan killed

BANGKOK — A plan by the Thai government to put prisoners to work on the country’s understaffed fishing boats has been scrapped, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday following charges that the scheme threatened inmates’ rights.

The ministry said in statement today that the plan had been withdrawn, adding that it was an “exploratory idea” and part of a government policy to help prisoners reintegrate into society.

In December the country’s Labour Ministry said it would send consenting prisoners with less than a year left of their sentences to work on fishing boats to ease a worker shortage and combat human trafficking fuelled by that shortage.

Rights groups had argued the plan would fail to address the fundamental causes of the labour shortage that fuels human trafficking in Thailand’s fishing industry.

Thailand is the world’s third-largest seafood exporter and its fishing industry employs more than 300,000 people, many of them illegal migrant workers from neighbouring countries who are often subject to ill-treatment. Thailand is ranked one of the world’s worst centres of human trafficking.

By: Bangkok Post

Nine Vietnamese Arrested in Battambang Census Raids

Nine Vietnamese nationals found to be living in Cambodia illegally were arrested at furniture-making workshops in Battambang City on Tuesday as the national immigration census nears its end, a police official said Wednesday.

Oeun Sarun, deputy provincial police chief, said the raids at the two businesses in Svay Por and Chamkar Samraong communes came after several months of investigations.

“Police have worked in the communes for a few months and after checking records they arrested nine people who were found without passports or immigration documents,” said Mr. Sarun, adding that the seven men and two women were believed to have crossed into Cambodia through illegal checkpoints in Svay Rieng and Kandal provinces within the past month.

Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, said that a total of 1,280 people had been deported since the census began in August, including 1,100 Vietnamese nationals.

Mr. Heisela said the latest group arrested in Battambang would be deported once he had received a letter of confirmation from Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

By Sek Odom

Trafficking is alive and well

Yet another news report started the week proving the abysmal failure in the fight against human trafficking. A Rohingya woman, among nearly 100 crammed like animals into a pickup truck, was crushed to death.

Police, obeying the outdated rules, arrested the other 97 trafficking victims, and the truck driver.

Once again, officials said nothing about pursuing those behind this murderous atrocity.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has mentioned several times during the past few months that a national plan is needed against human trafficking. He is right.

The country has long suffered notoriety as a hub of modern slavery and human trafficking. The PM’s order was promptly followed by new rules and laws to regulate and monitor the appalling fishing industry, to crack down on sex trafficking and child labour, and to compensate the victims of trafficking.

The PM also demanded immediate, monthly reports from state agencies about what they’ve done to stem trafficking and called for better coordination among them.

It remains to be seen how long it will take for orders from the top to turn into real action on the ground. The effectiveness of the policy will depend on action, not just words.

Gen Prayut has spoken of the national necessity to get off the United States’ list of perilous human trafficking locales. Thailand landed on that list last year after 10 years of a declining reputation and three years of specific warnings to improve or be ranked among the worst.

The country did not improve; it now ranks among the worst.

But using the US as motivation to fight human trafficking is not the right way to proceed. Security agencies, the government and the legal system should pursue traffickers, companies that use slavery and cross-border criminals because they are wrong for Thailand — not because we hope for kinder words from America.

Since the government insists on using the Trafficking in Persons Report by the US State Department as the gold standard, let us recall who was in charge as the annual reports documented Thailand’s slide from a respectable, committed country combatting human trafficking to one of the worst enablers of rights violations in the world.

In chronological order: Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party and its successors under several prime ministers; the army junta of 2006-2007 under Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin; the Democrats under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva; the Pheu Thai government under Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck; and now the Prayut administration, which faces an immense challenge to turn things around.

So much needs to be done. The proposal to register fishing-boat crews and to monitor the operations of commercial trawlers is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. There must be concerted measures to fight traffickers who lure and feed both foreign and Thai men into the dirtiest part of the fishing business.

And we have heard nothing so far from businesses — canners, agribusiness, food packers, clothing manufacturers and many others. Bad apples in business allow human trafficking and slavery to exist.

The government should begin forcing them to ensure decent treatment of legal employees.

By Bangkok Post

ILO welcomes drive to end trafficking

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Tuesday welcomed government efforts to tackle human trafficking as “a step in the right direction”.

However, labour experts have expressed scepticism about the measures.

The ILO’s comments followed a recent government push to move Thailand up from Tier 3 (the lowest rank) of the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report this year.

The country was downgraded from Tier 2 last year largely as a result of human trafficking in the fisheries industry.

The administration claims it has been amending legislation, increasing protection for workers, prosecuting traffickers and registering undocumented workers as part of its efforts to get upgraded.

Some retailers in the European Union and the US have boycotted products from Thai fisheries as a result of the downgrade and have threatened further action if improvements are not made.

Max Tunon, Senior Programme Officer for the ILO Asia and Pacific Office, said he had noted an “increased commitment” from the Thai administration to fighting human trafficking.

He said the ILO was particularly pleased to see the Labour Ministry adopting regulations aimed at protecting workers in the fisheries industry. These regulations took effect on Dec 30 last year.

“The real challenge, however, will be to ensure the laws and regulations are enforced,” Mr Tunon said.

The ILO will lend its support to implementing these rules and continue to work will all stakeholders.

According to Mr Tunon, the best way to guarantee law enforcement is to have efficient inspection and complaint systems.

The ILO is carrying out training programmes for labour inspectors, he said. Last year, it organised training in Thailand’s coastal provinces, where trafficking is most common.

The ILO is also working with the Labour Ministry to improve complaint mechanisms, Mr Tunon said.

The state should offer channels through which victims and witnesses can report rights violations to authorities.

Academics and labour experts agreed that drafting new laws or making amendments to existing ones will not solve human trafficking if there is no proper enforcement, which is needed on a long-term basis.

Narong Petprasert, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of economics, is sceptical about measures taken by the government in the past six months to combat trafficking.

“The administration has stepped up efforts to tackle trafficking because we were pressured to do so by foreign governments and institutions,” he said.

Mr Narong fears that once this pressure eases off, any progress will be undone.

Thailand’s failure to suppress trafficking is due to the fact that policies are not implemented continuously, he said.

He suggested that workers join or form trade unions to solve the problem once and for all.

“No one can protect workers’ rights more than the workers themselves,” he said, explaining that human trafficking victims are not necessarily unregistered migrant workers, but Thais as well.

“The Labour Ministry and the government should encourage employees to strengthen themselves collectively and defend their rights,” he added.

“Thai society is too reliant on state agencies and the administration,” Mr Narong said.

“When it comes to tackling problems, there is no efficiency.”

By Ariane Kupferman-Sutthavong


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