Mae Sot Raid Nets about 500 Migrant Workers

source from Irrawaddy news, 26 Feb 2009,

About 500 Burmese migrant workers and their children were taken into custody in Mae Sot after Thai authorities raided their homes on Thursday, says a Burmese migrant rights group. Myo Zaw, a member of Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association based in Mae Sot, said the crackdown took place at different locations in Mae Sot.


 The migrant workers were rounded up by police and will be deported to Burma, he said. Htay Oo, a Burmese migrant worker in Mae Sot, said police arrested most of the people, including children, in her neighborhood around 4 am. She said most migrant families had information about the coming crackdown, but they didn’t leave to sleep outside of town to avoid arrest.


A Mon language teacher in Mae Sot said that one of his students was arrested, and he asked police to release him so he could go to school. “But, they told me they will deport him to Burma soon, so he can come back to class [later],” he said. Most migrants had been informed about the crackdown as early as Monday. Some Burmese political offices closed, fearing they too would be part of the raids. Thai authorities tightened security in Mae Sot during the week. Police, immigration officers and Thai military intelligence were all involved in the crackdown.

The Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association says that there are about 100,000 Burmese migrant workers, most of them illegal migrants, awaiting new worker registration permits in the Mae Sot area. About 40,000 are legally registered. About 3,000 Burmese workers were laid off recently due to the global financial crisis in Thailand and an estimated 500 returned home, according to the labor rights group. Many migrant workers only earn enough money to provide for their daily food. If they are arrested and sent back to Burma, they usually re-enter Thailand and resume working, many in the factories that surround Mae Sot.


There are an estimated 1.5 million legal and illegal Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has sent a letter to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) calling for member governments to respect international human rights norms to ensure that recruitment, employment and repatriation of migrants is handled fairly. Some Asean countries continue to have inadequate and poorly enforced migrant regulations, the group said.


It singled out Malaysia and Thailand for failing to adequately investigate allegations of collusion between government officials and trafficking gangs on the Malay-Thai border.


The rights group called for the end of unlawful restrictions that prevent freedom of movement and association among migrant workers, and the need to ensure migrant workers have access to justice. It noted that Asean has declared it will address some of these issues, but many member countries have yet to implement concrete improvements on the ground.

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