Two more trafficking trials begin, 16 Myanmar victims rescued


Two new trials of human traffickers began last week in southern Thailand, as authorities also rescued 16 trafficking victims from Myanmar over the weekend. The rescued victims, and the Cambodian and Myanmar victims testifying at the trials, all said they had been duped by job brokers in their native countries and sold to slavers.

The trials and arrests are evidence that Thailand is sustaining its fight against traffickers, and also indicate the transnational nature of the crime. Unscrupulous brokers in victims’ countries of origins play a strong part in the structure of the trafficking syndicates. Most victims of trafficking in Thailand come from Cambodia and Myanmar, both of which border the Kingdom.

In a trial in the southern province of Ranong, Cambodian victims testified that job brokers in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh had duped them into believing they would be cleaning fish in Thailand. After arriving in the Kingdom, they found themselves working on fishing boats for more than a year against their will for no pay. A dock owner and two boat captains are on trial for those crimes, and 15 victims were rescued.

At another court in Trang province, the first hearing was held last week in the trial of the owner of a fishing company who is also chairperson of the province’s Fishing Association. He allegedly trafficked and abused 11 workers from Myanmar, and along with other defendants, he has been charged with abduction, trafficking, deception and abuse of power.

Thailand’s justice system has become more effective in dealing with traffickers. Last year, prosecutors brought 53 percent more trafficking cases to court compared to 2014, and 36 percent of convictions resulted in jail sentences of more than 10 years, with one of more than 22 years.

In the first of two rescue operations of Myanmar workers last week, 13 workers from Myanmar who had been sent to fishing boats were freed from their captors while at a dock in Surat Thani province. The rescue came through information supplied by the Myanmar Association in Thailand. Another three victims of trafficking from Myanmar were rescued in a separate operation.

In the past five months, 167 migrants were rescued through the joint efforts of officials and rights advocates including MAT, Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the Police Anti-Human Traffic Division, the Irrawaddy, a Myanmar news publication, reported. Their collaboration has resulted in the release of 900 victims between 2011 and 2015, and the detention of 10 traffickers, it said.

Ko Ye, a victim from Karen State in Myanmar, told the Irrawaddy that before leaving for Thailand, he was told he would be taken to work at a soft-drink factory, but was instead transferred to a fishing boat.

“Before we were rescued, we were only given 100-200 baht ($3-6) when our boats came inland,” said Hla Myint, a 63-year-old deaf man from Dawei in Tenasserim Division who said he had worked on a boat for almost three years.

Photo credit: Myanmar Association in Thailand