Op­er­a­tion al­le­vi­ates plight of mi­grant work­ers

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Front Page - ZAW ZAW HTWE za­wza­whtwe@mm­times.com

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.

Nyo Sein.

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.

PHOTO: AID AL­LIANCE COM­MIT­TEE

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