OPEN LETTER ON THE DEPORTATION OF CAMBODIAN BEGGARS WITHOUT DUE PROCESS

January 18th 2010

OPEN LETTER ON THE DEPORTATION OF CAMBODIAN BEGGARS WITHOUT DUE PROCESS

The Mekong Migration Network (MMN), a network of 38 civil society organizations in the countries of the Mekong Greater Sub-Region, strongly opposes the recent deportation of Cambodian beggars without due process and calls on the Royal Thai Government to ensure that effective and appropriate screening processes are immediately put in place to prevent the deportation of migrants who have the right to protection.

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.

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 Mekong Migration Network calls on the Royal 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 Mekong Migration Network calls 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.

For more information please contact:
Email: advocacy@mekongmigration.org
Phone: + 66 53 328 298
Ms. Laddawan Tamafu (Thai) + 66 8 1595 1364
Ms. Jackie Pollock (English) + 66 8 60904118

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