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Babies behind bars: Seven months' detention for families in Thailand

Trafficking Captives in Thailand Tell

Sunday, October 19, 2014
AS INTERNATIONAL concern mounts over human trafficking, the leader of a group of men, women and children who have been held captive for seven months in Thailand has made a desperate plea for help.

In a hand-written letter smuggled from the Immigration centre in the southern town of Padang Besar, the author talks of ''vulnerable women and children and physically weak men'' among the detainees.

The letter is headed: ''Appeal: The Thai government and humanitarian Thai people, world public opinion.''

The document came into the hands of a Phuketwan reporter yesterday in Thailand's south, where about 400 of the group have been held since March.

Although group spokespeople claim to have an affinity with Turkey and have support from the Turkish government, China says the group are members of its Uighur minority and wants them repatriated.

With the international arm-wrestle unresolved, the families at the centre of the dispute languish behind bars in southern Thailand. Thai officials grumble about the cost of supporting people who clearly do not wish to be in Thailand.

In the latest twist, some members of the group staged a two-day hunger strike in which the mothers also refused to allow their children to be fed.

After the 48-hour fast, seven women were banished from detention in Thailand's south to the province of Phang Nga, north of Phuket.

Two women said to be ring-leaders of the hunger strike were taken to Immigration detention in Phang Nga Town while five single women were to be held in a family shelter in Khao Lak.

The five women have since absconded, going over the wall at the low-security centre - and almost certainly into the hands of local Andaman coast people traffickers - after just two days. It's not known what the initial dispute was about.

The women fled with the arrival at the family shelter of several 17-year-old boys, youngest passengers among 134 boatpeople newly arrived from Bangladesh.

The men and boys were discovered in the hands of alleged human traffickers this week, near the town of Takuapa, not far from Khao Lak. With one exception, they told authorities they had been kidnapped.

The fate of those boatpeople is now being decided.

Although they all arrived in Thailand in the same boat from the same country, the likelihood is that Bangladeshi officials will take back their citizens but reject the stateless Rohingya refugees, even though they have been living in Bangladesh for as long as two decades and have families there.

Repatriations could happen quite quickly now that the international media has focused on the fate of the group, and human trafficking in Thailand.

The mysterious groups being held further south seem unlikely to be so fortunate.

Photographs taken yesterday in Padang Besar show young boys being held behind bars with their fathers, a decision that was accepted by Thai officials because the captive Muslim men insisted upon it.

North of Phuket, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists in the surrounding communities are equally insistent that arriving boatpeople be assessed to international standards to determine their future, not just quickly declared to be ''illegal immigrants'' and recycled into the hands of traffickers again.

Their community revolt against human trafficking is likely to win widespread support, especially with the expected arrival of record numbers of persecuted Rohingya from Burma's Rakhine state in Thailand during the ''safe'' sailing season between now and April.

While Thailand has clearly been stung into action by its mid-year demotion to Tier 3 in the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons report, most of that action has so far been cosmetic. Seminars don't save lives.

What the local activists are saying is that the coverup of the local cottage industry trade in people has to stop, and that Thailand needs to halt all trafficking - even if it has to do so alone, without help from Burma or its ineffective and disinterested Asean neighbors.

The plight of thousands of people said to be from China, from Bangladesh and from Burma will be filled with pain and suffering if Thailand fails to act while under international scrutiny.

*The letter from the leader of the people who have been held behind bars in southern Thailand for seven months can be read in full in the Photo Album above.

Comments

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This whole 'boat people happening' is getting out of control. Day by day Thailand loose more face by not being pro active and handling it well. It confirms daily Thailands Tier 3 Status.
Perhaps Thailand should handle it like Australia does? Pick a large thai island, accommodate the refugees there with proper care, and set together with UN proceeding steps for their return or next. I would not know what a 'life worth next' could be for them this moment. I pity them.

Posted by Kurt on October 19, 2014 11:10

Editor Comment:

Australia sets a Tier 3 example on the Handling Endangered People scale. With its treatment of indigenous people and boatpeople, it's easily the most wealthy racist country on earth. Their example is the nightmare of what happens when a nation grows too rich and uncaring.

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One big problem is,.. Asian countries so far not share forces in handling the refugee disaster. Hopefully AEC will make them more supportive with each other. But actually Thailand is traditional mastering to keep always foreign help outdoors. Floodings? , the dutch offered their water management expertise. Thailand refused. Koh Tao Murders? Uk want to help. Seem overnight a 'yes, ok' became a 'no'. You only can observe. Thailand refused.
Boat refugees? No country can handle that alone, but Thailand not look for advice of UN or EC. It is time Thailand get rid of the thinking,..."this is the way we do it". That is not working any longer in todays world. Join forces, not only with seminars, but in doing and actions.

Posted by Kurt on October 19, 2014 11:41

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Kurt, and what about asylum policies in the EU? There is no unified policy, there are no detailed rules on that, as a a result Sweden or frontier countries like Spain (Canary is.), Malta and Italy have to absorb most of refugees, and at the same time the rest of member countries stay as observers.

And then another general policy question is whether unskilled/low-skilled economic migrants should be accepted at all, and if so, then how?

Posted by Sue on October 20, 2014 00:49


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