Migrant Rights Activist Temporarily Detained in Airport

By Kyaw Kha 7 November 2014

RANGOON — A prominent migrant rights activist was briefly detained by immigration authorities in Rangoon on Thursday, for reasons that remain unclear.

Kyaw Thaung, director of the Bangkok-based Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT), was stopped by immigration officers at Rangoon International Airport while attempting to return to Thailand after escorting the parents of two Koh Tao murder suspects back to Burma.

Officers of the Immigration and Population Department reportedly told Kyaw Thaung that he had been “blacklisted” before detaining him in an immigration office.

“I was taken aback when they told me I had been blacklisted,” he told The Irrawaddy. “I asked them who said that, they phoned someone, and about five minutes later I was brought into an immigration office at the airport.”

Immigration officials kept him in custody for more than an hour.

Airport immigration officials could not offer a clear account of the incident, but an officer on duty told The Irrawaddy that Kyaw Thaung had most likely been “mistaken for someone who has the same name as him.”

The activist has now returned to Bangkok, where he resides.

Kyaw Thaung, who is from Arakan State in western Burma, has spent years assisting migrant laborers and victims of human trafficking in Thailand. The MAT, founded in 2008, works collaboratively with Thai police on dispute mitigation and rescue operations for abused migrants.

He is also a member of a team established by the Burmese Embassy in Thailand to oversee an investigation into the murder of two British backpackers in mid-September, of which two Arakanese migrants have been accused.

An investigation by the Royal Thai Police has come under serious criticism, and on Monday the families of the accused demanded that Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations carry out a separate and independent inquiry.