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The woman who says her husband was beaten to death in front of her

Even Murders Don't Count in Thailand Trafficking

Friday, January 9, 2015
PHUKET: A pregnant woman and several children were being held at Takuapa police cells north of Phuket today among a group of 53 boatpeople who have been declared illegal immigrants, not human trafficking victims.

They are likely to serve short sentences then be held in detention indefinitely. Others not classified as stateless Rohingya will be deported - back into the hands of the human traffickers.

The merry-go-round of tragedy and government inaction continues, even though murders are now alleged among this group of boatpeople.

It's six years ago today that Phuketwan published a report revealing the capture of Rohingya boatpeople and Thailand's reprehensible ''pushbacks'' policy. The policy led to the deaths of hundreds of men and boys.

Once these abuses were exposed internationally by the South China Morning Post newspaper, Thailand's government quickly introduced a new plan, the ''help on'' policy.

Under this plan, the Royal Thai Navy and other naval forces intercepted vessels carrying Rohingya and provided them with food, water and other assistance, as long as they did not land in Thailand.

Many boats, however, managed to evade authorities. Once onshore in Thailand, the ''help on'' policy became for the human traffickers a ''help yourself'' policy. Over the years, with little enforcement and no interruptions to the trading in people, the scale of the operation grew.

So did the abuses taking place in jungle camps along the border with Malaysia, where escaping survivors reported beatings, rapes and needless deaths, often amid appalling conditions.

The pipeline of people flowing from Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh became larger until recently, Bangladesh authorities confirmed that touts are now enticing young men to make the voyage south to Malaysia in the hope of finding better jobs. Some of these people had no previous intention to leave home.

Sources along the Andaman coast have told Phuketwan that many drug dealers switched to trafficking people because it is more lucrative, and because there is no law enforcement and therefore no punishment.

Last year, because of the continuing trade in boatpeople and other breaches of international rights, Thailand was downgraded to Tier 3, the lowest level, in the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons register.

It's unlikely that Thailand will move up until there are clear, unequivocal responses to end the trafficking. For now, those responses have yet to be seen to be serious and consistent, especially when it comes to the trafficking in boatpeople.

The bedraggled group of men, women and children caged at Takuapa police station is an example of the problem.

One of the women, who is pregnant, has told police that her husband was beaten to death in front of her while the group was being held on an island off the coast of Phang Nga, the mainland province north of Phuket.

Other boatpeople support her story. They say that two more people were shot dead on the island by the traffickers.

There will be no murder investigation because these people are now illegal immigrants, not declared human trafficking victims. Nobody has been caught cash in hand. And, it appears, even alleged murders do not count.

Local men who were driving the Rohingya south in pickups before being ambushed this week by anti-trafficking volunteers are likely to be freed.

The hard work of the volunteers in pursuing those three men for days, hunting them down in their hiding places in houses around Takuapa, is likely to be wasted.

All of the boatpeople wore blue or black wristbands, a certain sign they were destined for sale down south in the billion-dollar industry.

Some of them were probably destined for the slave trade on trawlers off the coast of Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. A Phuketwan reporter ventured out last year to a fleet of trawlers in international waters. Some of these vessels stay at sea for two years.

The supply ships that ferry provisions to the trawlers are usually free of slaves but the trawlers are notorious for their treatment of captive Burmese.

Rohingya and Bangladeshis are likely to join them unless they are able to raise the ransom demanded by traffickers in the southern jungle camps.

The fight against trafficking and slavery in Thailand is largely being led by individuals like Takuapa district chief Manit Pleantong, who is forced to use his own salary because there is no budget for this kind of activity.

Police and other agencies operating along the coast are also keener to have boatpeople declared illegal immigrants than human trafficking victims because there is no budget to house and feed them.

So for years, people who have clearly been victims of human trafficking have flowed through Thailand, often subjected to abuse, and sometimes arrested and deported as illegal immigrants, only to be recycled by the human traffickers again.

Down south in Songkhla, where the fishing trawlers dock in large numbers, Phuketwan interviewed a 16-year-old boy who had been working on the boats for two years. Stories of horrors at sea are easy to find.

However, checking the trawlers in international waters is virtually impossible.

Because the trade in boatpeople along the Andaman coast has continued to grow, specially modified cargo vessels capable of holding up to 600 people now ply the route down from Bangladesh and Burma.

It really is time Thailand mounted a campaign to apprehend one of these vessels at sea to prove Thailand's intention is to halt human trafficking.

Strong support is also required for Khun Manit and others who recognise the harm being done to Thailand by the trade in people, and are trying to do something to end it.

The detention of refugees for long periods in Thailand is also an issue. A filmmaker recently reported that Uighur refugees have been dying in captivity in Thailand.

Bangladeshi officials say some of their citizens have also perished while being held indefinitely in cells in Thailand.

Human Rights Watch spokesperson Phil Robertson said today: "Thailand's practice of indefinitely detaining asylum seekers and refugees is inhumane, violates international rights norms, and needs to change right now.

''Even women and children are not spared such treatment, exposing the lie that somehow the Thai government is acting in a humanitarian manner.

''The reality is the government locks people up to discourage others from coming.''

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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If Thailand "welcomed" these people there would be 100,000's of them coming to Thailand. What country wants uneducated, unskilled people with small or no money which is the reality which is why not a single country has offered them legal immigration. I am only allowed to enter/stay in Thailand as I have proof of money otherwise Thailand would not want me. Why should they? I am not Thai! If anything there should be an agreement amongst all Asean countries to take a per capita amount correlating to the size and population of the country, also religion therefore Indonesia and Malaysia should take the most. In a tiny country like Israel any Jew of any age, of any wealth, of any nationality can emigrate and become a citizen. If Israel with small land space can do it why can't these two countries help their fellow Muslims take them from Myanmar not Bangladesh as Bangladesh is not a member of Asean.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on January 9, 2015 16:07

Editor Comment:

More sensible to make Burma stop pushing them into the sea, FF. End of problem. Too simple for you?

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Clearly your proposal is not realistic. You seem to have an auto respond insult system in your mind to many readers who by the logic you are a reporter you want to provide a service to. Please consider changing this as it serves no purpose and is illogical. I value some of your news and some of your comments but not the insults. Ok AM!

Posted by Fiesty Farang on January 9, 2015 17:13

Editor Comment:

You are confusing you with other readers, FF. It's only the readers who say objectionable things who are challenged, as they should be. To imagine that others share your views is one mistake I would never make.

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AM, as you say your father is very weak are you going to OZ shortly. If so will PW be closed? Anyway despite your near constant "challenge" I hope you have a good trip and it brings you much relief to see him. The court have been very considerate to you. I hope you thanked the judge(s)

Posted by Feisty Farang on January 9, 2015 17:27

Editor Comment:

Thank you. The decision was made by the court director, and we appreciate it. We quite often operate PW from the road. It's possible to upload articles and photographs from the passenger's seat in a car these days. The articles may have a Phuket region focus but I could be editing them and the comments from virtually anywhere in the world.

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I totally agree with ED.

Burma needs to be back under sanctions by the West and Asean should be punishing Burma government as well.

Saying that, do we know how bad this problem was before Burma opened up?

@FF Why does it matter they are Muslim or not. Over 30% of Thailand is Muslim. Also its the Buddhists that are committing the crimes against the Stateless People. Religion shouldn't come into it, its called Humanity and Compassion.

Posted by Tbs on January 10, 2015 07:32

Editor Comment:

The latest push to exterminate the Rohingya did not begin until after the first signs of ''democracy'' empowered racists to say and do what they'd been dreaming about for years: wiping out their neighbors. I think you'll find Thailand is mostly Buddhist but the south has a large proportion of Muslims. Most live in peace.

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If the International community, Europe etc were to put strict embargo's on Thailand then that would force the Government to do something! Thailand only responds to things when forced to or when it is losing a lot of money. Stop all treaties with Thailand until they get morals and do something to stop this or let Thailand be completely alone and see how well they do then!

Posted by Mr Wolf on January 11, 2015 11:42

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The Trade of Rohinga boat people and UIGHUR is much more profitable than DRUGS in South Thailand .The authority concerned is blind eyes in this inhuman human trades . Many dies and rape at the hand of traffickers and a few in police custody .The authority is welly known the gang of traffickers. A few notorious Southern people ,a handful greedy Rohingyas from Thailand and Malaysia and local characterless muscle guys are fully involved in this deathly trafficking . I am wonder why the world uncharacteristically silence in this issue and not given strong pressure to killer regime of Burma. IN COMING DAYS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS MORE BOAT ROHINGYAS WILL BE LEAVING BECAUSE OF BURMA GOVERNMENT'S DRIVING POLICY !

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,President of Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand (BRAT) on January 13, 2015 13:17


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