Tuesday, April 22, 2008

54 Dead: Thailand Addresses Illegal Migrants from Myanmar

From Yahoo News:

BANGKOK, Thailand - Six Thai nationals will be charged with death by negligence after 54 illegal Myanmar migrants suffocated while being smuggled through Thailand in a tiny, locked truck, police said Monday.

The 54 dead were among some 120 job seekers from Myanmar crammed inside the truck, which was abandoned by the driver on April 10 when he noticed passengers dying in the back.

The migrants began suffocating when the air conditioning failed in the vehicle, normally used for transporting seafood. The migrants had been seeking jobs in the booming resort area of Phuket after being smuggled by boat from their country into the Thai port of Ranong on the Andaman Sea.

Immigration police commander Lt. Gen. Chatchawal Suksomjit said the crime of causing death by negligence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail for each person that died.

Read the full article

: Thailand sets June 6 as 'D-Day' for human trafficking

From MCOT:

BANGKOK -Thailand is set to issue a law on June 6 prohibiting human trafficking, following the tragedy in which 54 illegal Myanmar job seekers suffocated to death in a truck in the southern province of Ranong, senior officials said Monday.

The decision was made after a meeting earlier Monday between six government agencies and representatives from private organisations.

Currently, the Kingdom has a more modest law barring the trafficking of children and women and the new law which prohibits the activity will replace the current one, they said.

Participants at the meeting told a press conference that the 66 surviving Myanmar workers from the April 10 tragedy would be charged with illegal entry and given a suspended jail term and be fined 2,000 baht (US$63) each.

Workers without money to pay as fine were instead jailed for 10 days, said Immigration Police commander Pol. Lt-Gen. Chatchawal Suksomjit.

The survivors would also be asked to testify as witnesses against those who had been apprehended and initially charged in the case with negligence causing death to others, said Pol. Lt-Gen. Chatchawal.

Six Thai nationals – five men and a woman – have been arrested to date, while it is believed that several others, now still at large, are behind the illegal activity.

The April 10 incident has drawn great attention, nationally and internationally, to the plight of migrant workers who are willing to risk their lives escaping the hardships in their country in search of what they believe to be a better life.

*The difference between smuggling and trafficking- had the migrants been trafficked they would receive support from the government most likely in the form of food, shelter and counseling. Instead, as illegal immigrants they are being asked to help prosecute the smuggler and are being jailed and fined. Not enough evidence exists to charge the defendants with human trafficking, but if sufficient evidence is gathered in the coming weeks, this would then change the status of the illegal migrants to trafficking victims who are then eligible for government resources under the trafficking law.

The Yahoo article says an investigation could take up to 3 months to complete. Ultimately, if the defendants are found to be traffickers, wouldn't that mean the illegal migrants would have been wrongly jailed and fined? How is the government supposed to handle this issue?

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