On 18 Jan, the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) sent a letter to the government and relevant agencies to oppose the recent deportation of Cambodian beggars and call on the Thai Government to immediately put in place effective and appropriate screening processes to prevent the deportation of migrants who have the right to protection.
According to the MMN, on January 4th 2010 Teerachon Manomaipiboon, Deputy Governor of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) announced that begging in Bangkok had become a transnational human trafficking problem which needed to be solved as soon as possible. Over the next six days, the authorities rounded up beggars across Bangkok, including a group of 30 Cambodian children on January 7th and then on Jan 10th 557 Cambodian men and women. The migrants were displayed to the press at a conference organized by the National Immigration Bureau, 337 women and 220 men, many elderly, mostly disabled, some severely disabled. At the press conference Deputy Prime Minister Maj Gen Sanan Kajornprasart who is also responsible for the management of migration in Thailand as Chair of the Committee on Irregular Migration approached the 557 migrants wearing a heavy duty face mask.
Photo: Deputy Prime Minister Maj Gen Sanan Kajornprasart with face mask at press conference on Jan 10th 2010 (The Nation)
Following the press conference, all 557 migrants were deported as illegal migrants. There was no screening process to determine whether the migrants had been forced to work, whether they were debt bonded labourers or victims of human trafficking. According to the Anti-Trafficking In Persons Act B.E. 2551 which came into force in June 2008, people who have been trafficked to Thailand have the right to protection under the law and are not to be treated as criminals, the MMN said.
The Mekong Migration Network, a network of 35 civil society organizations in the countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, called on the Thai Government to find alternative, more humane alternatives to deportation, including regional strategies to improve the livelihood of all people of the Mekong.
In cases where deportations are carried out, the group called for appropriate due process, including:
1. Implementing a proper screening process to guarantee that migrants who have the right to protection are granted such protection, including victims of trafficking, forced labour or exploitation and asylum seekers.
2. Ensuring that all migrants who have been victims of crimes (trafficking, forced labour, exploitation, physical and/or sexual violence etc) have access to legal counseling and legal aid.
3. Providing legal status to any migrant pursuing a legal case in Thailand for the duration of the court case.
4. Treating migrants with respect and upholding their dignity.