CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Five Burmese nationals who allegedly trafficked their countrymen into neighboring Thailand were arrested in a joint operation by Thai authorities and Burmese advocacy groups last week, according to a member of the team that made the bust.
A force consisting of the Thai police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Division, the Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT) and the Foundation for Education and Development (FED) made the arrests on Friday after a Burmese worker who managed to escape from the captivity of traffickers reported his case to MAT.
“All the gangsters are Burmese citizens who have been living for a long time in Thailand and they are now detained at a police station. Thai authorities will take action against them in accordance with the law,” MAT director Kyaw Thaung, who took part in the arrest, told The Irrawaddy.
“The human brokers Ko Kyaw, Ko Aung Naing and Ko Khin, and gang leaders U Thein Oo and Daw Chan, were arrested separately in Bangkok, Mahachai and at fishing ports in southern Thailand. They all are in custody at AHTD [the Thai Anti-Human Trafficking Division] station and will be put on trial on June 10.”
In an interview with MAT, Ko Paing—the trafficking victim turned escapee—said he had been sold to a fishing boat at a price of 10,000 baht ($US308) by the brokers after being promised that he would be paid 15,000 baht per month working at a bakery.
Traffickers are known to exploit Burmese nationals seeking work abroad, with the latter often lured by promises of jobs and income that they would not otherwise be able to find in their home country. Thailand is a major destination, with laborers trafficked through border passages like Myawaddy, Tachileik, Kaw Thaung and Htee Khee.
“Seizure of this trafficking gang does not mean human trafficking has been stopped,” the FED’s Min Oo, who also took part in the bust, told The Irrawaddy. “There are a lot of gangs like it and human trafficking is a big industry here.”
The same day of the bust, four Burmese migrant workers sold to a coastal fishing vessel were rescued by a joint force from Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the FED, an advocacy organization for Burmese migrants based in southern Thailand. A broker accused of selling Burmese workers to boats was also arrested, according to Min Oo.
Min Oo said the risks associated with apprehending potentially dangerous traffickers, along with the need to work with Thai officials, presented formidable challenges to anti-trafficking efforts.
Kyaw Thaung added that the Burmese government’s indifference to the plight of migrant workers was another issue.
“The Burmese Embassy does not even pick up the phone,” he said.
Like the FED, the Bangkok-based MAT is an organization that provides assistance to Burmese migrant workers. In collaboration with the Royal Thai Police Force, the association has saved some 90 trafficked Burmese workers from early 2014 to June 6. It has also helped to nab eight Burmese human traffickers, according to MAT records.