Migrants face abuse, extortion in Thailand

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

via CAAI News Media

Published on : 23 February 2010
By International Justice Desk (wikimedia commons)

Migrant workers in Thailand face extortion, arbitrary detention, forced labour and physical abuse, sometimes at the hands of officials in a climate of impunity, a rights group said on Tuesday.

"Migrants in Thailand have been subjected to various forms of abuses, ranging from extrajudicial killings, torture to arbitrary arrests and sexual violence," said the group's representative in Thailand, Sunai Phasuk.

He was speaking at the launch of a report based on 82 interviews with people from neighbouring Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos, who make up a large part of the estimated 1.8 million to 3 million migrants in Thailand.

Migrant workers are a key source of manual labour in the $264 billion economy, Southeast Asia's second biggest, employed widely in the construction, tourism and manufacturing sectors.

"Migrant workers make huge contributions to Thailand's economy, but receive little protection," said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW.

Abuse and arrests
Migrants "suffer horribly at the hands of corrupt civil servants and police, unscrupulous employers and violent thugs, who all realise they can abuse migrants with little fear of consequences", he added.

HRW said many migrants were treated like "walking ATMs", or cash machines, and faced arbitrary arrest and extortio

In one case in 2007, a migrant from Myanmar, Su Su, said she saw two policemen in south western Ranong province kick a young Burmese man to death because he did not respond to their inquiries, made in Thai.

The report accused law enforcement authorities of failing to investigate ordinary crimes against migrants, including those perpetrated by employers that police are sometimes complicit in.

In another case, two assailants killed a Burmese man working at a rubber plantation before raping his wife. Although semen was collected and a suspect named in a police report, investigators suspended the case after a year, saying more evidence was needed.

Government against abuse
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva insisted the government did not condone abuse by officials. "If there are cases of violation [of human rights], we will not ignore them," he told reporters.

The report warned that enforcement of the government's 28 February deadline for nationality verification could lead to mass deportations, which would increase the risk of abuse.

The process is complicated, prohibitively expensive and unrealistic, HRW said, particularly for migrants from military-ruled Myanmar, many of whom entered Thailand illegally after suffering political and economic repression at home.

Abhisit said there were no plans for mass deportations and workers had two years to complete the process.

Source: Reuters
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) also raised concern about the 28 February deadline for more than a million migrant workers to start a process to verify their nationality, or face immediate deportation from Thailand.


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