Mizzima: Activists urge investigation into deaths of migrants

Samut Sakorn, Thailand (Mizzima) – Activists are urging speed and transparency in the investigations into the recent deaths of migrant workers in Thailand.

The Mekong Migration Network (MMN), a sub-regional network of 38 member organizations devoted to protecting migrant rights in the greater Mekong region, on Friday released a statement suspicious of the deaths of migrant workers in Thailand from neighboring countries.

The statement calls attention to a February 25th 2010 case in Thailand’s Pak Nam Sub-district in Ranong Province in which soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division fired on a pick-up truck carrying 13 undocumented migrant workers from Burma, resulting in the deaths of three migrant children. Five others were also injured during the shooting.

In another case on March 9th of this year in Phuket, a major destination of migrant workers from Burma, a 20-year old woman and a young girl, both from Burma, drowned in a river while fleeing police who arrived at the workers quarters overnight. The woman had a work permit and was enrolled in the new nationality verification program, while the girl was holding a temporary identification document. According to a witness, workers nearby were too afraid to rescue the drowning pair as police held them off at gunpoint.

“The Mekong Migration Network is appalled by such tragic deaths of innocent children and women. These deaths would have been avoided if proper procedures had been followed and if the safety and well-being of migrants was respected,” the group noted.

MMN added that in 2006/2007 they conducted collaborative research on the arrest, detention and deportation of migrant workers in the Mekong region and highlighted the resulting serious human rights abuses, as well as a lack of transparency and accountability on the part of authorities.

“While MMN’s core recommendation is that policies be amended so that migrants are not constantly at risk of arrest, detention and deportation, in the event that migrants are arrested, detained or deported, we called for the procedures to be carried out in a humane, safe and transparent manner and only by authorized, trained authorities,” argues the statement.

In response to these latest tragedies the MMN in calling for the Thai government to conduct full and impartial investigations into the events in question, ensure involved authorities are held liable for their actions, facilitate access to justice for victims and take immediate steps to ensure that relevant authorities enforce safe and humane procedures during the arrest and deportation of migrant workers according to both Thai and international law.

The group further contends that the Thai government should address the level of fear and insecurity that has been created in the broader migrant community, which is said leads to even fully documented migrants being terrified of uniformed officers.

A worker from Burma in Thailand’s Mahachai District in Samut Sakorn Province, where numerous migrants are working, told Mizzima they have experienced people posing as officials for the purpose of extorting money from the migrant community.

“Fake officials that we believe are local mafia come to our houses and charge us money. But we’re too scared to tell the police because some of us don’t have work permits,” the source explained.

Monday, 22 March 2010 09:57 Usa Pichai

Last Updated ( Monday, 22 March 2010 10:19 )