Burma

More Than 30 Thai Police Accused of Trafficking Myanmar Migrants

By The Irrawaddy 15 January 2021

Dozens of Thai police face criminal prosecution and disciplinary action after being implicated in human trafficking on the Thai-Myanmar border.

At least 33 officials were involved, said Thailand’s deputy national police chief, Police General Damrongsak Kittiprapas, who added that the accused officers range from non-commissioned and commissioned officers to the deputy commander level, according to The Bangkok Post.

The paper said the officials are accused of smuggling migrant workers across the border to Kanchanaburi’s Sangkhla Buri district, which lies at one end of the Three Pagoda Pass, opposite Myanmar’s Karen State.

Thai police will next week issue arrest warrants for eight other Thai civilians who are part of the smuggling gang, which sneaked migrants into Thailand and sent them to work in Samut Sakhon, the epicenter of the recent COVID-19 outbreak, Pol Gen. Damrongsak said

Thai officials have stepped up measures to prevent illegal border crossings in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in Samut Sakhon, central Thailand, where thousands of Myanmar migrant workers live and work.

Samut Sakhon is home to a large number of factories that employ migrant workers, most of them from Myanmar. The wholesale seafood market at the epicenter of the latest outbreak, which began in December, also employs a large community of Myanmar migrants. Some 300,000 to 400,000 Myanmar people work in seafood markets and processing plants in Thailand.

Thailand initially won praise for implementing one of the world’s most successful coronavirus containment strategies. However, alarm bells have sounded recently, with the discovery of a number of COVID-19 cases linked to Myanmar and Thai migrant workers from both countries who slip back and forth undetected.

Thai and Myanmar workers illegally cross the porous border and some have found lucrative jobs and business opportunities during the lockdown.

After the initial outbreak in Thailand last year, a large number of Myanmar migrant workers returned home via official checkpoints, but many have headed back to Thailand illegally. Human traffickers charge 8,000-10,000 Thai baht (about 355,000 to 445,000 Myanmar kyats) to transport one person from border towns to the interior of Thailand. Some undocumented people, including Rohingya entering Myanmar from Bangladesh, also sneak into Thailand, from where they are smuggled to Malaysia. They pay a handsome amount of money to both Myanmar and Thai human traffickers to reach the country.

Recently, 19 Rohingya migrants were arrested in Bangkok for illegal entry to Thailand, seven of whom were found to be COVID-19-positive. A Thai woman accused of housing them was detained.

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