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Bangladeshis in confinement at the Takuapa community hall yesterday

Thailand's Trafficking Trade Trauma Grows as Officials Avoid the Truth

Saturday, November 1, 2014
News Analysis

TAKUAPA: Thailand must halt human trafficking or face putting its reputation at risk for endangering hundreds of the world's most destitute people.

The country's foreign ministry became embroiled in a case involving Bangladeshi boatpeople yesterday, adding chaos to a complex situation that requires clarity and a commitment to finding solutions, not covering up the truth.

Officials from the ministry complained and acted as censors when reporters from the BBC and Phuketwan attempted to film and talk to officials from Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh investigators had come to the town of Takuapa, north of Phuket, to interview 81 men and boys.

The group claimed they had been kidnapped but even if they were merely enticed into believing better jobs awaited them outside Bangladesh, the case clearly involves human trafficking.

It comes amid revelations that Rohingya minority Muslims are fleeing Burma (Myanmar) by the thousands and the first visual evidence that they face abuse, rape of the women and possible death because conditions in the secret jungle camps of southern Thailand are so appalling.

The scandalous way the countries of the region have allowed this shocking trade in people to evolve and grow was criticised in the Opinion pages of the International New York Times on Thursday with the lead article headed 'Enslaved Abroad, Oppressed at Home' dealing with Bangladesh and Thailand plus an Editorial entitled 'The Persecution of the Rohingya.'

The cat is out of the bag. Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a marketing organisation that prefers to hide the truth rather than solve the problem.

Trying to prevent the media reporting the story, as officials from the ministry appeared to be attempting yesterday, only serves to do Thailand more harm than good.

The fact is that the ministry should be concentrating on ending Burma's ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Rakhine state, where Thailand's human trafficking trauma begins.

In the five years since Phuketwan and the South China Morning Post newspaper exposed Thailand's inhumane ''pushbacks'' policy, Thailand has become a country through which thousands travel down a secret trafficking trail that should have been closed years ago.

Instead, the trail has been allowed to flourish and grow.

Thailand's Andaman holiday coast and southern provinces are now places where traffickers carry out their shocking business with impunity.

The good people of Takuapa town made a stand two weeks ago as traffickers attempted to truck 134 men and boys to secret jungle camps in southern Thailand.

Christian, Buddhist and Muslim volunteers, working with the district chief, apprehended the boatpeople in two groups, interviewed each of them to international standards, and declared them to be victims of human trafficking.

Local police usually pass boatpeople on quickly to Immigration officers as ''illegal immigrants,'' a classification that saves spending money on confining and feeding the arrivals and leaves Thailand's reputation free from taint.

But the stand by the local community, who want to put an end to human trafficking in Thailand, has disturbed the trafficking trail and led to alarm at the top levels in many government departments.

As a result, many telephone calls have been made from Bangkok to people on the ground in Takuapa, urging that the case should be treated as illegal immigration, not human trafficking.

Foreign Ministry officials appeared yesterday to blame the media for the mess.

The real reason: Thailand declines to confront Burma and prefers instead to sacrifice its own reputation along the ever-growing trafficking trails.

The trade in people continues, with no end in sight.

A final decision on the status of the Bangladeshi boatpeople is expected to become apparent early next week.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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So so sad, poor people..

We all deserve a good life...

Hope something positive happens for,them...

Posted by Robert on November 1, 2014 11:18

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@robert +1

Posted by Terry on November 1, 2014 14:55

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What a disgrace. Alan your a champion for exposing this inhumane suffering of innocent men women and children. Thank you for your incredible effort. We all are aware of the risk and personal cost you put yourself under.

Posted by R.G. on November 1, 2014 15:10

Editor Comment:

Thailand is not my country, RG. Those who speak out in defiance of the system are the real champions. But thanks, anyway.

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Many Rohingyas are on the way to Thailand because of recent Rakhine action plan that force them to change their ancestral Rohingya identity into "BENGALI" which is completely foreign to them. This pro government plan force them to leave for other countries.Otherwise Rohingya will be kept in well guarded CONCENTRATION CAMPS in their own country . There some people from Bangladesh on the boat to Thailand .too. At this genocidal situation ,some greedy people take advantages from the boat people.The traffickers gangs are very organized and strong to run this inhuman slave trade . The have good net work .Comparatively more victims are raped and died this year at the concentration caps of traffickers. If the dedicated authority not come forwards ,the human tragedy will be continued. The Burmese government has not intention to stop it. According to UN GA report ,Burma would like to drive all Rohingyas from their native area. Who will come to help this unfortunate people ? What is the obligation of UN and international community to stop the genocide and human trafficking ? Are they not coming forwards to save the HUMANITY ? At least outside world knows about the human tragedy because of Phukewan's ground repots.

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,President of Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand (BRAT) on November 2, 2014 03:23

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Like R.G. Said, well done Alan... Credit where credit due....

Posted by Robert on November 2, 2014 07:52

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I really not understand the stand of Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Officials working in that Ministry sure have a bit knowledge of how things are working internationally ( outside Thailand)with press and communication. All this Officials do know about the Thailand downgrading to Tier 3. Do they not feel the urge to repair the image of Thailand, and work hard to stop this human trafficking/slave thai 'industry'? Secret jungle camps! How is that possible without knowledge of thai authorities?

Posted by Kurt on November 2, 2014 08:27

Editor Comment:

The MFA has been working hard to convey the message to the world that, if there has been human trafficking in Thailand, the problem is now being addressed. It just isn't so. Little is done at ground-level to determine whether arriving boatpeople are trafficking victims or not. The result? Abuses, rapes and needless deaths inside the secret jungle camps, huge profits flowing to the traffickers, and a spreading network of locals encouraged to join in.

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In this good publication I just do miss a report about the stand of Thai Human Right Commission in this human trafficking matter.

Posted by Kurt on November 2, 2014 08:54

Editor Comment:

We are still awaiting a report from the Human Rights Commission on the Royal Thai Navy v Phuketwan case. Both parties met separately with the commissioners, then together, after the trial had started. Apparently the commission is unable to draw any conclusions. A lot of time was spent asking PW to apologise for publishing the Reuters paragraph, apparently the commission's idea of ''mediation.'' PW told the commission repeatedly that we have nothing to apologise for. However, if one day Reuters apologises for its Pulitzer-winning paragraph, we will consider what to do next. Human rights are hard to find in Thailand. Having a HR ''commission'' means little.


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