YANGON—Thai officials facilitated the return to Myanmar of about 55 victims of human trafficking on Friday under a bilagteral agreement to return trafficked persons being held in rehabilitation centers.
The Myanmar Ministry of Home Affairs said on Friday that officials of the Thai Social Development and Security Affairs Ministry transferred about 53 human-trafficking victims to Myanmar via the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing between Karen State and Thailand’s Tak province.
Another two victims of human trafficking were returned to Myanmar through the border gate in Shan State’s Tachileik, according to Ma Khine Su Lwin, assistant director of the Rehabilitation Department under the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.
Myanmar and Thailand discussed and planned for the transfer of about 600 Myanmar human-trafficking victims at the 23rd Myanmar-Thailand meeting on the Return and Reintegration of Trafficking Victims in Yangon in August.
Ma Khine Su Lwin told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the returnees had spent about eight months in Thai immigration detention centers and rehabilitation shelters.
They were firstly detained at immigration centers for a few months following their arrest for illegally entering Thailand with brokers. After their status as trafficking victims was confirmed, they were moved to rehabilitation shelters in Thailand.
”All of the people transferred to Myanmar today have been confirmed as [Myanmar] citizens,” Ma Khine Su Lwin said.
She added that there are still about 550 Myanmar victims of human trafficking believed to be held in Thailand’s rehabilitation shelters.
An estimated 100 of these people have been confirmed as Myanmar citizens, but they will have to remain where they are for now, as they are needed as witnesses in human trafficking cases.
In August, Sunee Srisangatrakulert, director of Thailand’s Division of Anti-Trafficking in Persons, told Myanmar media that people from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia are trafficked to Thailand for forced labor. Many are forced to beg and women are often forced into prostitution.
The number of Myanmar victims has been higher than those from the other countries for the past two years, Sunee said.
Myanmar and Thailand hold meetings once every six months to try to expedite the return of trafficking victims.
Thailand has also returned Myanmar workers who were trafficked by smugglers through Thailand, purportedly to find jobs in Malaysia, without sending them to jail.
Meanwhile, about 20,000 Myanmar workers enter Thailand legally every month to find work under a memorandum of understanding on labor between the two countries.
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