Just one case, but symbolic - migrant flood victim arrested by police seperating husband and wife

The arrested Myanmar male migrant worker (one of 3), aged 27, worked with his wife at aluminium factory for 2 months in Rangsit, Pathum Thani. When the water from floods level reached to chest,  the factory was officially closed on 12th October 2011.  Water and electricity was cut off as water level rose swiftly into their factory and nearby areas. Since the migrants in that factory received no assistance, they contacted a Burmese NGO who rescued a group of 19 migrant flood victims and took them to Thammasart emergency camp on 15th October 2011 by 2 pick up trucks. Before the arrested worker left Thamasat camp, he wanted also to get the recommendation letter of flood victim from authorities to be free from arrest as his other friends who received it. His wife was ok as she had a temporary passport. But due to his incapability of speaking Thai language, he told his wife to talk on behalf him. However, he didn’t get it as they couldn’t explain clearly to the responsible persons due to their language barrier. Without having recommendation letter, they left from camp and go to Maw Chit bus terminal on 22.10.11, at approximate time 4:00 pm. Thammasat was soon to be closed, they had heard.

Without knowing what to do exactly, they all (5 persons) slept on the grass inside bus terminal compound. On the following morning on 23.10.11; all of them 5 persons are in Maw Chit bus station preparing to buy tickets to the border to go home. Around 10:00 am the police came and check their ID, among 5 of them 3 persons were documented, 2 persons are pass port holder. Police released pass port holder 2 persons and arrested 3 persons charged with crossing boundary illegally from Pathum Thani as their work permits did not allow this. The wife of the arrested worker called a Burmese NGO for help her husband and other two persons. She informed that she doesn’t know where the police took her husband to. According to her, if police send the arrested workers to Thai Burma border, her husband doesn’t know any process at border which is that he would encounter (DKBA/border military). At that time, he got only little money with him. She worried so much for her husband security and she bought the ticket to go back to border to assist her husband.

However, the NGO consulted with the Ministry of Labour and the police as the police were asking 4-5, 000 baht for the release of the 3 arrested workers. The NGO found out the workers were being held at Bang Sue police station. As soon as others involved, the police said that no money could be paid and they processed the ‘illegal’ workers formally and sent to the prison below the police station. MoL informed networks late last night the workers had been sent to Immigration Detention pending deportation for illegally movements in Thailand. The wife has no relatives in Mae sot nor even in Myawady and she was alone stranded at Mo Chit bus station. Recently, she got only 200 baht left over cause she bought the ticket and paid 600 baht at Maw Chit bus terminal. She said, “I’m so worried of my husband. I must save my husband or else he will surely be abused by DKBA  or forced into hard labor when he reaches the border and cannot pay for his freedom.” The Burmese NGO went around midnight last night to pick up the lady from Mo Chit and take her to the shelter and are enquiring the whereabouts of her husband now but still do not know where he is.

There continues to be no clear policy from Thai agencies for assisting migrant workers without temporary passports, who have limited freedom of movement, for returning back to Myanmar amongst the flooding situation. Reports suggest increased extortion by border forces of returning migrants at both sides of the border.

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Andy Hall
Foreign Expert, Institute of Population and Social Research (IPSR), Mahidol University
Consultant, Human Rights and Development Foundation