Thai Government Steps Up Crackdown on Illegal Migrants, Irrawaddy

More than 1,000 migrants, including over 600 from Burma, were arrested by Thai authorities since June 17 in Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan provinces alone.

In a two-step purge conducted the first week of June and this week in Samut Prakan, 719 illegal migrant workers were arrested, of which 264 were from Burma. In Pathum Thani, 629 were arrested between June 17-21, of which 390 were from Burma.

“Whenever there are crackdowns on the migrants, there is a lot of corruption and a lot of violence. We are concern about it. The government needs to be careful about the policy,” said Andy Hall, the director of the Migrant Justice Program of the Human Rights and Development Foundation, a labor rights group in Thailand.

Hall said that more than 400 migrants from Burma were also arrested in Bangkok in the last week and over 150 in Mahachai. He questioned who would replace deported migrant workers, saying the Thai economy depends on them.

Nai Aree, an ethnic Mon migrant from Burma living in Mahachai, said, “At least two times a day they come to arrest the people here. Those who were arrested had to pay 4,000 bath to get released.”
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva issued an order on June 2 setting up a Special Center to Suppress, Arrest and Prosecute workers who entered the country illegally. Five regional Thai authority working groups are implementing the crackdown on illegal migrants.

Asia Human Right Commission (AHRC) issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing the Thai government for implementing the migrant crackdown policy as it could lead to gross human rights violations affecting more than a million highly vulnerable migrants, especially those from Burma’s ethnic minorities.

On Wednesday, AHRC called on the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants to urgently seek clarifications from the Thai government on how this migrant crackdown policy would respect Thailand’s international human rights obligations, particularly as a newly elected member of the UN’s Human Rights Council.

According to the AHRC, there are an estimated 300,000 migrant workers who failed to enter the Thai government’s “nationality verification process” and therefore will be targeted under the Thai prime minister’s order, and many of these migrants are Burmese.

The migrant groups in Thailand say the crackdowns could lead to danger to migrants and the prime minister’s order will just lead to corruption among the authorities. Deported migrants will come back again to Thailand as they bribe Thai authorities to enter the country.

The Thai government and the Burmese government have agreed, however, to bring some Burmese workers into Thailand legally, and since last year the Thai government has worked with Burmese migrants to register border passports for legal workers.

By LAWI WENG Thursday, June 24, 2010

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