Pattaya Daily News

03 February 2008 :: 16:02:44 pm 30131

Fear Comes With The Job

The grass is greener in Thailand for migrant workers, but it?s stained with blood Thailand offers a greener pasture for many Burmese migrant workers, but for some it can be a very dangerous place indeed.
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In the middle of a September night in 2007, Thein Aung and four other Burmese laborers were taken by three Thai men from the huts where they lived at a sweet corn plantation in the village of Ban Jaidee Koh near the Thai-Burmese border town of Mae Sot.

The five Burmese were handcuffed and led to another village where the killing began. Four of the captives?Than Tun, 35, Kala Gyi, 27, Paw Oo, 28, and Naing Lin, 18?were shot in cold blood. The fifth man, Thein Aung, 58, feigned death and escaped.

Thein Aung made for a nearby village, where other Burmese migrants found him and took him to hospital in Mae Sot.

Thai police in Mae Sot have so far arrested four men suspected of involvement in the killings, including the migrants? employer. Two of the suspects were Burmese migrants, who told police they had been instructed to burn the bodies of the murdered workers. The case is still being investigated.

Human rights lawyers and labor rights activists in Thailand say the murders were no isolated incident and that violence against Burmese migrant workers is on the rise. They accuse Thai authorities of doing too little to protect Burmese working in Thailand.

Complaints by Burmese workers of abuse by their Thai employers are increasing, according to Somchai Homlaor, a human rights lawyer with the Bangkok-based non-government organization Forum Asia. Thai police often accept bribes to close their inquiries, Somchai charges.

Labor rights activists recall the high-profile case of an 18-year-old Burmese girl, Ma Su, who was brutally beaten and burned alive by her Lopburi employer, Col Suchart Akkavibul, a special group commander in the Royal Thai Air Force, in July 2002. He was convicted of the girl?s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Somchai told The Irrawaddy that sometimes Thai employers kill their Burmese workers to avoid paying them. If discovered, they are often able with police assistance to buy their freedom by paying compensation to the victims? families.

?Even if the victim?s family agrees to accept compensation the police should continue the investigation and bring the case to court,? Somchai said. ?Killing is a very serious crime.?

Highly publicized cases of abuse and even murder don?t deter Burmese migrants from seeking work in Thailand, however. Ma Nge, a recent arrival in Bangkok, said: ?I heard many reports of murder, and they scared me. But I have no choice.?

Ma Nge first came to Thailand in 2005, working long hours in a Bangkok food processing factory for 3,000 baht (US $90) a month. Now, on her second visit, she?s still looking for a job and is homesick, but hope and economic necessity keep her going.

“When you are starving you forget to be scared,? she said.

With the money she has saved in more than 10 years of working in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, Ma Ohn, from northern Shan State, has financed a two-storey house for her parents in Lashio. She doesn?t plan to return home any time soon, and has been followed to Thailand by a number of her relatives, who were smuggled in by a trafficking organization.

Nearly 20,000 registered Burmese migrant workers have jobs in the Mae Sot area of Thailand?s Tak border province, where cases of abuse are particularly prevalent.
Moe Swe, head of the Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association in Mae Sot, said many incidents remained unreported because migrant workers were reluctant to get involved with the police. Unregistered migrants fear deportation if they complain to the authorities about abuse by their employers, Moe Swe said.

A large Burmese migrant community also lives around the fishing ports of Thailand?s Samut Sakhorn Province, where nearly 800 cases of abuse, including murder and rape, were reported to the Seafarers Union of Burma from mid-2006 to November 2007.
Union member Ko Ko Aung said 30 percent of the reported cases involved murder.

?There?s no security and no protection for migrant workers,? he said.

?Neither the authorities nor employers can give them security.?

An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Burmese migrants work in the fishing and seafood processing industries of Samut Sakhon Province, while less than 100,000 of them are legally registered.

Up to 2 million Burmese migrants are estimated to be working in Thailand, less than 500,000 of them legally. The numbers rise steadily?the lure of jobs is far stronger than all the uncertainty and threat of physical danger.

Source from “SHAH PAUNG ” -The Irrawaddy
Date: Friday, February 1, 2008

Reporter : PDN staff   Category : World News

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