Burmese Migrants, Thai Recruiters Arrested in Mae Sot

By Kyaw Kha 25 September 2014

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Thai authorities in the border town of Mae Sot have arrested scores of Burmese migrant workers and a group of Thai nationals accused of illegally recruiting them, the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok has confirmed.

The authorities in Thailand’s Tak province arrested the gang on Sunday at a house in the Mae Pa Ward of Mae Sot, the Thai news portal manager.co.th quoted local officials as saying.

Eight Thai nationals accused of running the recruitment operation and 75 Burmese people believed to have been recruited by the men have been detained, the website reported.

Thai authorities will reportedly charge the Thai men with facilitating the migrants’ illegal entry into Thailand, and the Burmese men will also face immigration charges.

The Burmese labor attaché to Thailand Thein Naing told The Irrawaddy that the Burmese Embassy had been informed of the bust.

“Our groups in Mae Sot reported about it to us,” he said on Wednesday.

The official said it would be difficult to intervene on behalf of the detained Burmese nationals since they had entered Thailand illegally.

“They entered [Thailand] illegally and we find no reason to ask Thailand not to take action against them according to its law,” he said.

A steady stream of Burmese people enter Thailand either legally or illegally every day, drawn to the neighboring country due to economic hardship at home and the government’s failure to create decent jobs in Burma, according to Htoo Chit, executive director of the Foundation for Education and Development, which assists migrant workers.

“It is easy to cross the border and it [illegally crossings] also happens frequently because of the corruption of departmental personnel at different levels,” he told The Irrawaddy. “Personally, I think certain departments both in Burmese and Thai sides must have been involved in it.”

There are approximately three million Burmese workers in Thailand, up to one million of whom are estimated by migrant advocacy groups to be in the country illegally. A national verification process initiated jointly by the Thai and Burmese governments in 2009 had allowed more than 1.7 million migrants to be issued temporary passports through August 2013, allowing them to work in the Kingdom legally.

Among those who are often left out of the temporary passport issuance scheme, labor rights groups say, are victims of Burma’s civil war who have fled their homes, leaving behind the household registration certificates and national ID cards required to qualify for the national verification process.