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Thais Working Illegally Sent Back by Malaysia

Friday, July 3, 2009
AUTHORITIES have arrested 29 Thais they say were working illegally on the holiday island of Langkawi amid concern about Malaysia inflicting canings as a ''cruel'' punishment.

The Governor of Satun, Sumet Chailerdwanichakul, oversaw the return by ferry of 19 of those arrested to mainland Thailand from the Malaysian island yesterday.

Members of the Governor's staff have gone to Langkawi to check on the whereabouts and wellbeing of the 10 Thais still being held there.

Malaysia has been castigated this week by Amnesty International for the ''cruel, inhuman and degrading'' whipping with a cane of illegal immigrants.

Most of the Thais arrested this week were restaurant workers, the Governor said.

Two of them were middle-aged female citizens of Satun province.

Seventeen others, he said were younger than 30 and came from Isarn provinces in northern Thailand, or Phang Nga.

The two Satun people did not have their passports stamped but the other 17 have been banned from Malaysia for one year.

''People who wish to work in Malaysia need to seek a work permit first,'' Governor Sumet said. ''There is nothing that we can do to help if Thai citizens are arrested there without a permit.''

Governor Sumet said megaprojects were helping to boost Satun during the economic downturn.

A large marina is under construction and a four-kilometre tunnel to Malaysia will begin in October, to be completed in 2012.

It will be Thailand's longest tunnel and make travel between the two countries by road much easier, Governor Sumet said.

In a report this week, Amnesty International urged the Malaysian government to rid the country of caning as a punishment, especially on illegal immigrants.

Whipping someone with a cane is cruel, inhuman and degrading and international standards make clear that such treatment constitutes torture, Amnesty said.

According to Malaysian records, most of the 40,000-plus caned in the past few years were Indonesians (60.2 percent), with the rest coming from the Philippines (14.1 percent), Burma (13.9 percent), Bangladesh (3.6 percent) and Thailand (2.8 percent).

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