Operation alleviates plight of migrant workers
Some of the 125 Myanmar job seekers who were rescued from the clutches of human traffickers by Thailand law enforcement officials this week.
THE scourge of human trafficking in the region is just not abating. Thai officials smashed another trafficking syndicate and rescued 125 Myanmar workers who were smuggled into central Thailand for employment and imprisoned in a small enclosed chamber by traffickers, a Bangkok-based Myanmar rights group said.
The Aid Alliance Committee (AAC) said the migrants have been locked up in the chamber for at least two months and the rescue operation was successfully conducted on July 18.
A team from the Department of Special Investigation of Thailand (DSI) on Monday raided the chamber in Mahar Chaing area in Samutsakhon Province where the workers were confined in deplorable conditions, according to the AAC.
The AAC said on July 19 that during joint search operations conducted by Thai army, DSI and Immigration officials and AAC members, seals and documents used to produce fake passports and work-permit documents were seized from a broker’s house.
“Brokers invited them here for work with agency fee. But, they couldn’t find jobs for them,” AAC member Ko Ye Min told The Myanmar Times a day after the raid. “All documents and passports of the workers were kept by the brokers so they could not run away.”
The AAC tipped off Thai authorities about the case after five workers from the group escaped and sought the organisation’s help.
One of the rescued workers said that the brokers persuaded them to go to Thailand where they can get jobs under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two governments to send workers. And, each worker has paid the brokers between K400,000 and K600,000.
“I have been here for nearly two months. We have no job. Our passports were kept by the brokers. They gave us copies of our passports, but we were not allowed to go for a walk,” said Ko Zayar Min, from Bago region in Myanmar.
He added that 15 workers – including himself and his friends – had given the brokers K400,000 when they applied for their passports in Yangon.
They entered Thailand illegally via the Dawei route, Ko Zayar Min added.
He said when they reached Thailand the brokers demanded an additional K200,000 each once they found jobs for them.
If they get employed in factories, they have to pay the brokers another 2000 baht (K80,873), Ko Zayar Min said.
“We had to come here to work since there were no jobs for us in our villages. We would like to work here if it is okay because we borrowed money to come here,” he added.
Ko Ye Min said that DSI arrested the suspected Myanmar brokers who smuggled the workers and they would be charged in court with human trafficking.
But Ko Ye Min lamented that the leader of the traffickers has not been arrested, adding that the suspect probably enjoys protection from the Thai police.
Ko Ye Min said Thai authorities agreed not to arrest the 119 workers (81 male and 38 female) because the implementation of the new Thai labour laws remains suspended and also because of AAC ‘s request.
Myanmar embassy officials and officials of Myanmar Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, did not respond when The Myanmar Times contacted them on July 20 to obtain more information regarding the cases.
U Pho Kyaw, a driver who runs between Htee Khee and Dawei, said if people want to open a shop in the area, they ask the KNU or government authorities.
“The squatters here are all temporary because they are not legal owners. The squatter houses have increased dramatically since 2015. Before that, it was even hard to find a place to have lunch,” he said.