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Migrant workers in fear amid Thai crackdown

4 min read
Humvee at Ratchaprarop road in Bangkok

Thai army Humvee at Ratchaprarop road in Bangkok. Photo: Walter van Kalken / Magnus Manske.


Samut Sakhon, Thailand (Mizzima) – Migrant workers in Thailand are living in fear amid a police crackdown over the past week that has led to the arrests of more than a thousand migrants in several regions around the country, some said yesterday.

Nida, a Mon worker in the Mahachai district of Samut Sakhon, a province neighbouring Bangkok on the southern seaboard, told Mizzima today that her family members and friends who work in Thailand were afraid to leave their homes.

“I have a working document but still don’t want to go out because some of my friends were detained even though they have documents,” Nida said. “Police justified the arrests by saying they had to inspect their documents thoroughly.”

Bangkok Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Santan Chayanont said on Sunday officers had found that 1, 241 migrant workers of Burmese, Laotian, Cambodian, Iranian and Indian nationalities had entered the Kingdom of Thailand illegally. Most were found to be working in restaurants and factories.

Santan said that after foreigners were alleged to have stolen 12 million baht from a pick-up truck in front of a bank, police were bolstering investigations into the histories of migrant workers who might be drawn into criminal activities.

“In addition, there is the need to investigate the histories of these persons to find out who the masterminds responsible are and who they hired to illegally sneak these workers into the Kingdom of Thailand,” he said, according to a report on the state-run Thai News Agency website. “These histories and this information can then be sent to police headquarters, including information on the different means illegal workers use to sneak into the country to work.”

A shop owner in Mahachai, an area known for its seafood market, added that police had increased the frequency of checks on the migrant community there, while some local mafia had also forced workers to pay them.

According to the Human Rights for Development Foundation (HRDF), whose staff work closely with migrants, around 830 were arrested between last Thursday and Saturday across all nine of Bangkok’s police regions. In Mahachai, a total of 150 were arrested also on Thursday, and on Sunday, around 150 were detained in Sa Kaew province, on the Cambodian border.

The crackdown followed Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s order on June 2 for the immediate launch of a “Special Centre to Suppress, Arrest and Prosecute Migrant Workers who are Working Underground.” Its goal, he said, would be to ensure the effectiveness of the January 19, 2010 Thai cabinet resolution on “nationality verification” for migrant workers from neighbouring countries.

The Thai government expects the process to end in 2012 and that migrants who work in Thailand must have a passport and work permit.

An official in Mahachai said the process was continuing and that more migrants were applying for the verification but that the Burmese government’s demand to recheck the information of each worker was causing delays.

Surapong Kongchantuek, deputy chairman of the Lawyers’ Council of Thailand’s subcommittee on the rights of stateless persons, migrant workers and migrants, said police action would fail to solve the problem as the real trouble was that human traffickers remained at large.

“Officials have been employing this policy (of arresting workers) for about 20 years and the problem is still happening,” he said.

Adisorn Kerdmongkol, manager of a project for the well-being of migrant workers, ethnic minorities, refugees and stateless persons at the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, added that the upcoming general election in Burma may rekindle conflict over migrants and refugees in Thailand amid a continuing divide between the Burmese military junta and those ethnic minorities that have rejected joining the army’s Border Guard Force.

Activists estimate that there are between two million and three million migrant workers in Thailand. Of them, around 90,000 have verified their nationality and carry a passport, while 800,000 have lodged applications to do so.

On Monday, the HRDF released a statement urging Thai government to stop suppression of migrant workers, which it said constitutes a serious threat to human rights. It said Bangkok should open a new round of migrant registrations to provide an opportunity for the estimated 1-1.4 million migrants to register legally instead.

The group also warned the action would lead to a labour shortage in the country and that workers would face more abuses from human traffickers as they could be deceived into finding new jobs, which could open a window for officials to extract bribes from the vulnerable.
restaurants and factories.

News source: Mizzima News


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