16. The Situation of Migrant Workers from Burma
The one million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand are one of the largest migrant populations in Asia. Migrant workers from Burma come from a variety of geographical locations and ethnic groups and work in several different industries and service sectors in Thailand. There are both push and pull factors at work when people make the decision to migrate to Thailand. The pull factors include the close geographical location of Thailand to Burma as well as the demand in Thailand for cheap labor. The push factors include the poor state of the Burmese economy and massive human rights violations that occur all over the country. Many workers have come to Thailand to escape the demands for forced labor on infrastructure and other projects in their home states and divisions. In the case of the more than 100,000 Shans working in Northern Thailand, the majority of them have fled from human rights abuses that include forced labor, forced relocations, arbitrary arrest and rape, but are denied refugee status by Thailand and therefore are considered illegal migrants.
All migrant workers face a common fear of arrest and deportation. This fear keeps many migrants from moving freely and impedes their access to health care and other social services that may be available. For this reason migrants suffer in silence from easily treatable diseases, and the spread of communicable diseases is facilitated by lack of access to health care facilities and medicine, cramped living conditions and poor sanitation. Lack of knowledge of the local language also prevents migrants from seeking help when they face unhealthy or dangerous situations. This combination of fear of arrest and lack of knowledge about the laws, customs and language of their host country means that migrants are easily exploited and abused by their employers, the Thai authorities and each other. However, the conditions inside Burma make migration to other countries preferable for a large number of people despite the risks and dangers involved in such a move.
Over the course of 2000, several high profile acts of violence carried out on Thai soil by Burmese nationals increased negative sentiment among the Thai public towards refugees and migrants from Burma. In addition, the Thai authorities intensified a high-profile crackdown on illegal alien workers, especially Burmese, in attempt to increase security in Thailand. Their efforts were the most intense in Kanchanaburi, Tak and Ranong Provinces which share a border with Burma. This made an already precarious situation for Burmese migrant workers worse. Despite this, thousands of workers continued to flood into Thailand where the economy has improved since the 1997 economic crisis and there has been a corresponding demand for cheap labor.
In response to long standing requests by Thai businesses for the authorities to relax restrictions on foreign workers, in August 2000, the Thai Labor ministry decided to extend work permits for 107,000 migrant workers.
Legally registered workers, a fraction of the total number of migrant workers in Thailand, were spread out in 37 Thai provinces, mostly working in areas bordering Burma, and restricted to working in 18 areas, including fishing, mining, farming and cottage industries. The majority, 19,200, worked in Samut Sakhon, followed by 11,236 in Ranong. Foreign workers seeking to stay for another year had to apply for a work permit and pay a 1,000 baht registration fee by November 2000. On August 24, more than 10,000 unskilled Burmese workers rushed to Mae Sot, Tak province after the decision to extend the work permits was made known. Of between 60,000 and 100,000 workers in Mae Sot, only 2,125 were legally allowed to work in the farming and construction sectors.
The crackdown in the border provinces has pushed illegal immigrants to find jobs elsewhere in Thailand with many Thais making money by acting as their agents or transporting them. Burmese laborers who enter Thailand illegally usually begin by applying for a temporary border pass. They then contact brokers, including policemen and immigration officers, who will find them jobs in Bangkok or other provinces. They often travel by hiding in trucks transporting other goods, such as produce. Corruption of the police and immigration authorities has meant that most often those who are arrested and pushed back across the border are able to return shortly.
As a result of the crackdown, and increased job competition, jobs in factories have become harder to find and many women from Burma are taking jobs in the sex industry. This is partially to blame for the growing number of women workers being seen at Thai hospitals after seeking dangerous back-street abortions. In addition, many of the migrant women are young and separated from their families for the first time and lack knowledge about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDs. Those who have found work in factories are often confined in cramped quarters supplied by their employers, with men and women housed together. Many pregnancies are out of wedlock which are unacceptable in conservative Burmese society.
Women are also vulnerable to sexual harassment and sexual assault by their employers and the Thai authorities. Because they are illegal aliens, there is no legal recourse for this abuse and many women fear losing their jobs or being deported if they complain. This is also true for workers who have been exploited by their employers or faced physical abuse at work or during arrest or detention by the Thai authorities. During arrest and detention workers a vulnerable to beatings, rapes and economic exploitation in the form of bribes requested by the Thai authorities for their release or to prevent arrest. After deportation dealing with the Burmese authorities is not any better - workers face possible extortion, interrogation, detention, prison sentences forced labor, recruitment for the army, rape and physical abuse; in some cases repatriated workers have been killed by the SPDC.
16.2 Situation in Mae Sot, Thailand
In the year 2000 it was estimated that there were between 60,000 and 100,000 illegal Burmese migrant workers in Mae Sot, Tak Province, Thailand. The majority of these workers are employed by Thai and foreign owned factories, especially the garment and textile industries. They are subject to harassment by their employers and the Thai authorities, unsafe working conditions, exploitation, lack of job security and sexual abuse; because of their illegal status they have no recourse against these abuses. Due to the location of Mae Sot directly across from the Burmese town of Myawaddy, workers face the continual threat of deportation. Burmese workers can be arrested during factory raids, as they are walking down the street, shopping in the market, or riding public transportation. In 2000 there were several mass arrests with workers being arrested in the hundreds or thousands at a time. In some instances migrants have been arrested by Thai authorities in wearing plainclothes. In some cases workers may avoid deportation by paying bribes to the Thai authorities, either before or after they are taken into custody.
Beginning July 1, 2000, Thai authorities launched successive repatriations of Burmese migrant workers in Mae Sot. As of August 21, 2000 there were 300 police and immigration officers in Mae Sot in addition to the usual police force in order to carry out the operations. It is believed that the Thai police received an additional budget from the Government to repatriate illegal immigrants. The successive repatriations stopped after August but started again on December 1, 2000. It is reported that the Thai authorities ordered the factories to close, but some were still running secretly. As of December 19 there was information that police had orders to arrest 70,000 migrant workers. Due to the successive raids on factories Burmese workers in Mae Sot had no steady employment or wages due to the inconsistency of the availability of work and fear of arrest if they did go to work. In some instances factory raids have been coordinated with the factory owners/managers to occur a few days before pay day so that the workers don’t have to be paid the wages they are owed.
Another result of the continuing raids was that many workers were left without livelihood, shelter, food, clean water or medical care which put their health at risk. Many times the workers live at their place of employment, therefore when they had to flee as the result of a raid, fear of a raid or the closing of a factory they were also fleeing their homes. In some instances, workers were warned by their employers or others before a raid took place. It is reported that thousands of workers fled to paddy fields and jungle surrounding Mae Sot in order to avoid arrest. Some factory owners gave the workers a small amount of money, as a loan or an advance on future pay, when there was information about an upcoming raid and the workers had to hide, but the majority didn’t. When groups of workers, sometimes more than 1,000 at a time, are arrested they are sent in groups, by truck, to the Thai Immigration Detention Cell located near the Moei River. Before being repatriated their details are recorded, and fingerprints and photographs taken. Burmese workers who have already been arrested three times by Thai authorities could be sentenced to jail. There are reports that workers have been beaten during arrest or detention. With jobs harder to find in factories after the clampdown, more Myanmar women are taking up jobs as hostesses in karaoke bars and as prostitutes. Health surveys in Mae Sot show that eight in ten Myanmar prostitutes are likely to contract the HIV virus that leads to AIDS.
Situation in Myawaddy
Workers that are repatriated to Burma from Thailad face harassment and extortion or worse from the Burmese authorities in Myawaddy. It is reported that Burmese authorities were interrogating and investigating workers deported by Thai authorities in 2000. Some were being fined 6,000 kyat if they could not show a Burmese National Identity Card; this was a hardship for many families who had been settled in Mae Sot for a long time and had lost their National Identity Cards. In addition to this, workers were forced to pay various fees to the authorities, including those for entering and leaving Myawaddy, an offense for which they can also be given jail sentences.
Other reports from Myawaddy said that repatriated male workers may be recruited for the army and all workers could be taken to be used as forced porters for the military. This creates addition fear of being sent back to Burma because their security cannot be guaranteed. As of December 19, 2000, Burmese authorities had left open only the Mae Sot-Myawaddy "Friendship Bridge" check point and closed down all other passages. Therefore Burmese workers wishing to return to Burma had to pass through the authorities.
Workers that wanted to return home often didn’t have enough money to both pay the Burmese authorities as well as pay for transportation home. In addition to this, many are also afraid of situation inside Burma and possible arrest by the Burmese authorities. Some workers have no place to stay in Burma as they had sold of all of their properties to settle in Mae Sot. As of August 21, 2000, many recently repatriated workers were staying in a monastery in Myawaddy. They were unable to either return to Thailand because of continuing police operations, or to return to their original home in Burma as they could not afford transportation. On August 21st, the Burmese police, immigration officers and army officers held a meeting at the Myawaddy highway compound. After the meeting, they went to a place where many of the workers were staying and told the female workers to take their belongings and get into a truck. The women were afraid and ran away. Some of the workers were taken further inside Burma. Others went into hiding in the jungle and paddy fields near Myawaddy. On the Burmese side, the Burmese military blocked all illegal border crossings and stopped issuing official passes for Burmese citizens to enter Thailand.
The following is a time-line of the Thai authorities’ operation to repatriate Burmese migrant workers in Mae Sot, and related events in December 2000. (Source: BLSO)
December 1, 2000- Thai authorities start arresting Burmese migrant workers and other Burmese people in Mae Sot.
December 2, 2000- During arrests the Thai authorities wear both uniforms and plain clothes and sometimes use civilian vehicles. They arrest Burmese in the central market and around Mae Sot. Some workers start leaving factories and going into hiding.
December 3, 2000- The arrests continue. A worker, Maung Lin Lin Naing, 16 years old, from Champion wool factory is sent to Mae Sot hospital because of an accident while he was working in Champion wool factory.
December 4, 2000- Thai polices and immigration officers raid and arrest workers from the sock factory in Ban Nuear and other small factories.
December 5, 2000- One young woman is raped and killed near Champion wool factory. Maung Lin Lin Naing dies in the hospital of his injuries.
December 6, 2000- Thai police raid Mae Pa Slipper factory. Workers, including women, jump down from the third-floor window. Many injure in their legs and bodies.
December 7, 2000- In the early morning, Thai police and immigration officers raid the construction workers’ barracks. Old women and some children are arrested and taken to the Thai immigration custody.
The funeral ceremony for Maung Lin Lin Naing is prevented from being held at a Monastery because the Thai police threaten any Burmese coming to the funeral with arrest.
December 8, 2000- Some workers hiding in the paddy fields become sick because of the lack of shelter from the weather which is windy and cool.
December 9, 2000- Thai police arrest workers from Hyaat wool factory and workers coming back from Myawaddy.
December 10, 2000- Many workers are still hiding in the paddy fields and forest until some factories open again secretly.
December 14, 2000- The owner of the Champion factory refuses to pay full compensation for the death of Maung Lin Lin Aung and tries to force his parents to sign an agreement. The parents refuse to sign. The workers are very angry and try to call a strike.
December 15, 2000- Worker leaders negotiate with the owner of the Champion Knitting Company to promise to give full compensation to Maun Lin Lin Aung’s monther. Finally, the owner gives her 20,000 baht.
December 16, 2000- Some factory owners announce to the workers that factories will closed down because Thai authorities will accelerate operations. Some workers go back to Burma and some go into hiding again.
December 17, 2000- Arrests start in the early morning in the central market and continue the whole day around Mae Sot.
December 18 and 19, 2000- Police vans crowded with people
who were arrested can bee seen going to the immigration center near the Moei
River (Burma border).
Situation for workers in CKI Factory, Mae Sot
Raid on factory by Thai authorities, workers arrested and beaten, one killed
On August 31, 2000 in the early afternoon, the Thai Authorities, including police, immigration and army personnel, raided the Chow Knitting Industrial Co. LT. factory in Mae Sot, Thailand. The Taiwanese owned factory employs 3,000 workers and is one of the biggest factories in Mae Sot. The factory is divided in two sections, with an upper and a lower compound. The lower compound, with 1,000 workers, was raided first. After entering the building, the Thai Authorities locked all the gates and doors to prevent any workers from escaping. However, the workers in the upper compound heard about the raid and some were able to escape with their belongings. The workers, including women and children, were chased by the authorities for over one mile through paddy and corn fields, which were muddy due to the rain, and many slipped and fell. As the workers were running away the police shot their guns in the air to give them warning they should stop. According to one female worker who escaped, she heard the cries of some women workers as they asked the police not to beat them. Workers that were caught were taken to a monastery located near the factory and beaten by the authorities. 900 female and 100 male workers were arrested during the raid. The workers were first locked inside the factory and the authorities began by arresting only female workers. Twenty five male workers approached the authorities and asked if they could exchange themselves for 25 of the female workers. This angered the police and they began to beat some of the workers. Before they did this they took photographs of the 25 workers who had requested the exchange.
The 1,000 workers that were arrested were taken to the Thai immigration detention center where some were beaten. Forty-four workers (42 male and 2 female) were separated from the rest and put in a different cell. The rest of the workers were released. On September 2, twenty-four of the 44 workers were released opposite the Zeetaw Gate checkpoint. They were put on a boat to cross the Moei river to the Burma side. Some of the workers became angry and shouted at the police, who then proceeded to beat the workers in the boat. One of the workers, Kyaw Min, 24, from Dagon satellite town in the Rangoon division, was hit in the head by the Thai authorities and fell into the river. He could not swim and because no one could help him he drown. He is survived by his wife who was 2 months pregnant at the time. The owner of the factory where he worked gave his wife some compensation money. Of the twenty workers that remained in custody, 16 were released on September 5. Four remained in the detention center as of Sept 9. Of the workers that were released on September 2, two of them had serious injuries due to being kicked in the chest by police and army officers wearing heavy boots, and as of September 9 were receiving medical treatment.Employment Conditions of CKI Factory as of December 2000
December 21,2000- Factory workers reject a pay reduction, instead calling for a pay raise. Managers refuse demands; as a result, factory workers begin a strike. Factory owner and manager close machine room, thereby forbidding the workers from entering said rooms.
December 22, 2000- Workers continue strike
December 23, 2000- 4pm- Manager requests police, immigration officers, and militia to pressure the striking workers back to work. At this time, workers meet with the manager and factory owner to discuss the terms of employment and salary. Workers demand the dismissal of the factory manager, but owner refuses, stating that he would, however, be willing to dismiss workers. Meeting reaches no agreement.
December 24, 2000 5pm- All of the approximate 2,000 workers of the factory’s upper compound are dismissed. Manager disburses pay for previous thirty days. Some workers complain that they receive only a fraction of money owed. Even though most workers usually stay at factory during nighttime, the factory manager instructs all workers to leave factory immediately. As a result, many workers sleep in the forest surrounding the factory; while those who refuse to leave the factory are escorted out by security.
December 25, 2000- Manager invites female and homosexual workers to return to work, though on condition that they abide by nine rules demanded by the factory manager, which includes:
Many of the workers refuse to sign the aforementioned contract, and begin searching for employment at other factories, but because of the crackdown on illegal workers, several factories are temporarily shutdown, thus forcing the former workers of the factory to remain nearby.
December 26, 2000- The factory’s security guard demands
that those former workers staying in nearby shops leave the area. At this time,
there is a Thai police crack down on migrant workers, thus putting these factory
workers in a difficult situation; if they leave the area, they risk beatings at
the hands of Thai authorities, as well as forced repatriation to Burma. Many
lack the financial resources to both re-enter Burma and back to their hometown.
December 26,2000-January 3,2001- Little transpires to change the situation at the Chow Knitting Industry Co, Ltd. factory. Management waits for former workers to agree to their contract and return to work, while many former workers wait for the reopening of other factories.
January 4, 2001 8:30am.- Approximately 100 police and Thai immigration authorities surround areas where former workers continue to hide. Many escape, but approximately eighty-five workers are arrested. 1:00pm. Police and Thai immigration return to area, though only about thirty workers are arrested. During both incidents, police shoot bullets into the air in order to terrorize the workers. Some workers complain that authorities shot bullets directly into the forest where many workers were believed to be hiding. In total, about 120 workers are arrested and transported to police station, where many pay a bribe and are released. Others pay bribes, yet are not released. Others are sent to the detention center for illegal immigrants, where many are randomly beaten before repatriation to Burma. Women detainees complain that male authorities at the detention center performed body searches. Male detainees attempting to stop this sexual abuse are beaten by authorities.
16.3 Situation for Shans in Fang District, Chiang Mai
As of July 18, 2000, members of the Shan ethnic group living in the Fang District of Chiangmai were being harassed by the local police. Fang and the neighboring districts of Mae-ai and Chaiprakarn are known in the north for their fruit plantations. They rely heavily on cheap labor from the Shans who have been streaming into Thailand since the 1996 forced relocation campaigns launched by Rangoon. Thailand does not recognize the Shans as refugees even though they are the victims of human rights abuses, such as forced relocations, by the SPDC. Normally those who carried pink cards (for displaced persons) and green survey cards (for highlanders) were left alone unless they ventured out of the district area, but since June 2000, even those that carried blue cards, who could normally travel inside Chiangmai province, were not spared from harassment. Many without a citizenship card were being stopped and forced to pay bribes to the Thai police. It is reported that the harassment started after village headmen refused to collect a monthly protection fee of B.150 per family for the police. The Thai government has issued a directive empowering district chiefs to grant citizenship to various card holders, but it has yet to effect the Shans. (Source: S.H.A.N.)
16.4 Situation in Samut Sakon, Thailand
In 2000, the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma released a survey they had carried out on the living and working conditions of the estimated 60,000 illegal Burmese workers in Samut Sakhon. Mistreatment of workers was widespread and some employers used violence to control their workers if they did not do what they were told or were caught slacking. Filthy working and living conditions increased the spread of disease, as well as the fact that ill workers did not seek medical treatment at hospitals because of fear of being deported. One Burmese worker said he was not entitled to take a day off even if he was sick. If he did his employer would deduct Bt500 from his salary. Some unscrupulous employers even arranged to have their workers arrested on the day before pay-day so wouldn’t have to pay them. Female victims of sexual assault were afraid to speak out; employers, police and others took advantage of the women and threatened them if they dared complain. Some female workers have been caught by the police and never heard from again.
Among the Thai authorities there was widespread corruption, the survey found. Police officers were involved with smuggling people into the country and the wages of some workers were garnished by their employers to pay weekly bribes to the police. Employers also had to pay the police, normally Bt 3,000 per laborer, to get arrested Burmese workers freed from custody. Most workers that get caught outside their places of employment have to pay bribes to the police to be set free, in some cases even those carrying legal licenses have had to do this because the authorities say they are fake. Sometimes if workers are arrested in groups, one person is set free to collect money and bring it back to pay the bribe. In cases where workers are beaten by the police they are afraid to come forth and complain.
16.5 Situation in Mizoram State, India
There are an undocumented number of people from Burma who are living and working in the Mizoram State of India after fleeing from Burma.
Mass Arrests and Deportations
As of July 2000, scores of ethnic Chin were reported to have been forcibly returned to Burma from the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, and handed over to the SPDC. Hundreds more were reportedly detained and facing deportation. Between 40,000 to 50,000 ethnic Chin and Lushai from Myanmar are estimated to be living in Mizoram, which borders the Chin State in Burma. In addition, it is estimated that one thousand handloom weavers from the middle and upper parts of Burma are working in various handloom houses in the State. Whenever the police in Mizoram launch an operation against illegal immigrants, Burmese handloom workers suffer the most and are easy to catch because of their recognizable appearance.
Many of those detained had well-founded fears of persecution and possibly imprisonment and torture in Burma, and were not able to claim asylum in India. At least 87 were reportedly forcibly returned on August 4, 2000, and several hundred more were reportedly detained in the first week of August. U Than Sein, an exiled member of parliament from the NLD, and two members of the ABSDF were arrested and held in the central jail in Aizawl, the capital of the Mizoram State, and eventually released. As of July 30, 2000, the fate of other foreigners including U Than Sein’s daughter and son in law was unknown. As of August 2,000 there were fears that there would be further arrests and deportations, and many Chin went into hiding. Those detained were reportedly held in several jails and police posts in the state, under the Foreigners Act, which makes no provision for refugees and does not allow those detained to seek asylum. (Source: Amnesty International/Mizzima News Group)
Increase in Number of Women Migrant Workers in Mizzoram
As a result of the soaring prices of basic commodities, religious persecution and forced labor by the SPDC of the number of Burmese women working in various occupations in Mizzoram has steadily increased over the last ten years as the economic and political situation in Burma has deteriorated. According to local people, before the 1988 military take over in Burma, very few Burmese women came to Mizoram and worked mostly in handloom weaving industry. As of 2000, there were estimated to be five thousand Burmese women working in Aizawl alone. The majority of them work as housemaids, while others work in handloom weaving, teashops, restaurants and trading in goods and cosmetics. In addition, some women trade between India and Burma. As a result of the influx of workers, it is difficult to find employment. Most of the migrant women workers are from rural areas of Chin State and the Sagaing Division of Burma. There are also many others who come from Monywa, Mandalay, Swhe Bo, Hseik Khun, Saung Nat and rural areas in Upper Burma. They are scattered in Aizawl, Laung Thlaing and Lone Li townships in Mizoram of India. When crossing border from Burma to India they have to bribe Burmese security forces at numerous checkpoints along the route and immigrations officers in addition to paying an increased bus fare if they don’t have a National Identity card. Many women working as housemaids are exploited and harassed by men and are forced to have sex with their employers. Sometimes, without being aware of the situation they become involved in sex work. (Source: Mizzima News Group).
16.6 Situation for illegal migrant Rohingya women in Pakistan
It is estimated that there are at least 20,000 Rohingya women, originally from the Arakan State of Burma, living in Karachi, the capital of Pakistan alone. Most are forced to work as rag-pickers, casual laborers and sex workers. Once in Pakistan, the price of a female illegal migrant ranges from $1,285 to $2,428, depending on her physical attributes and conditioning. Many claim to be Bangladeshis as Burma denies them citizenship. Because they have no citizenship, if they try and return home they are evicted or used a forced labor. Their stateless status also puts them at the mercy of pimps, touts, police informers, border guards and agents who run the flesh trade.The coast of Sindh is also a popular destination for Rohyinga because jobs in the fishing industry can be found easily, however, most refugees owe huge sums of money to those who arranged for their journey which then puts them in a cycle of debt.
Many Rohingya have also settled in West Bengal, India, working as domestic help and living in shanties near railway stations. The women have found some backing from the Left parties although such support comes with strings attached. They are vulnerable to the local area bosses, panchayat leaders and the police, who have to be bribed regularly and who extract other favors from these women, who cannot approach officials for fear of detection and deportation.
Stateless Prisoners in Bangladesh
In 2000,500 stateless prisoners, mostly from Arakan State, were squandering in Bangladeshi prisons even though their terms had expired because the SPDC would not take them back. Ninety percent had overstayed their term 4-5 years and the other 10% for more than one year.
16.7 Partial List of Incidents
Refugees/migrant workers arrested and detained by SPDC troops after repatriationOn February 1, 2000, 45 refugees/migrant workers who were returning from Thailand were arrested and detained by SPDC troops from LIB553 led by Maj. Mya Thin at Paeng Kham village, Murng Yawn tract, Murng-Sart township. After being held for 4 nights and 5 days, during which they were interrogated and robbed, they were forced to return to Thailand. (Source: SHRF)
Child crushed by steel plate on construction cite of the new Minburi Provincial Court Building
On February 26, 2000 a two year-old boy "Pepsi", the only son of two illegal Burmese immigrants, was killed when a steel plate fell from a construction site in Minburi. His parents were working at the site of the new Minburi provincial court building at the time of the accident. Witnesses said the boy was wandering about the construction site when the steel plate fell from the unfinished building and crushed him. The boy’s parents, who had been working illegally in the country for five years, were arrested for illegal entry and were to be sent back to Burma.
However, a police spokesman said they might be allowed to stay for the funeral of their son before being expelled. Police charged Sathit Pititraisakul, supervising engineer of the building project, with negligence leading to the death of the child. (Source: The Nation)
Rape of Burmese girl by Thai Official, Mae Sot
On March 1, 2000, an 18 year-old girl was abducted in Mae Sot, Tak province, Thailand, by a Thai official, taken to a remote area and raped. As the man was under the influence of narcotics, the girl was later able to escape. The girl was from Bogalay Township, Irawaddy Division, and had fled to Thailand after the SPDC had ordered the villagers in her hometown to rebuild a collapsed river bank. She had arrived in Thailand 3 days prior to the incident, and had been searching for work in local factories. (Source: Young Chi Oo)
Detainee beaten almost to death in Mae Sot by Immigration
On March 3, 2000, Aa Htun, aged 21, was beaten almost to death while in police custody in Mae Sot. The victim had been arrested on February 26 in Ma Ha Chai where he worked in a fish-canning factory. Prior to being sent to Mae Sot he had been kept in the Ma Ha Chai jail for 4 days, during which time all his money, 9,000 baht, was taken by the police. On March 1 he and approximately 100 other workers were sent from the Bangkok Immigration Detention Center to Mae Sot by truck. When they arrived they were brought to the Mae Sot Immigration Center and the immigration police told them that if they could pay some money they could be released. The workers could not pay and were kept in the Immigration Center. Au Htun told the police that even if they could not pay then they should be released. The police asked him if he was released would he go back to Burma, he answered yes, but the police did not believe him and began to beat him. Their exchange was complicated by the fact that the victim didn’t speak Thai well. He was told that he shouldn’t argue with the police because it was very easy to kill a Burmese person. Aa Htun tried to run to a different part of the cell while he was being beaten and the officers became more angry. Several officers came in to beat him one by one; they handcuffed him and brought him to a special cell where kicked him with their boots and hit him with a rubber stick and brooms. He later managed to get his handcuffs off and when someone opened a door a tried to escape but was arrested at the gate. He was beaten again, this time with iron and rubber sticks, and he was hit in the face and neck, and his head was stepped on and crushed by an officer wearing military boots. He was covered in blood and when he fell unconscious the officers threw water on him so he would wake up and they beat him more. The other prisoners feared that he was dead and one of the police officers warned that he would be killed that night. Luckily a Burmese man came to the detention center looking for a friend and the other detainees begged him to pay a bribe to the police to release Aa Htun before he was killed. The man paid them $1000 bhat and Aa Htun was released. (Source: BLSO)
15 Workers Die in Car Accident during Deportation, Mae Sot
On May 19, 2000, at 6:30 a.m., at least 15 Burmese workers were killed, and more than 30 injured, as Thai authorities transported them to the border in a routine deportation. The bus carrying 65 Burmese workers to the border crossing at Mae Sot, left the road and plunged into a 100-meter deep ravine during rainy weather.
Deported Migrant Workers used as porters
On June 5 and 7, 2000, IB 61, captured nearly 100 men from a group of 237 people which had been deported by the Thai Government to Paya-Thone-Zu (Three Pagodas Pass). The troops used these deported Burmese migrant workers as porters in their columns. At that time, IB 61, which had been temporarily based in Paya-Thone-Zu, had to change bases with IB 343, so they were in need of porters. Along the way, the SPDC troops tied every porter’s hand to a rope, so that each porter was separated 20 inches from one to another. One soldier had to guard two porters and walk between them. (Source: THRF)
Six women and children Sold to Banyaikai sewing factory,
On June 20, 2000, six young Burmese women who had been sold to the Banyaikai sewing factory in Nornthaburi district, managed to escape to Mae Sot. While working in the factory the young women were forced to work 14 hours a day, sometimes working overtime until 4 a.m. Their employer did not pay them because he considered them his ‘property’. They were also slapped and otherwise physically abused. The women were:
Ma Ni La, aged 13
Nan Htay Yin, aged 14
Ma Thuza Thin, aged 14
Ma Kya Phyu, aged 14
Nan Thwe Thwe, aged 18
Ma Soe Nhin See, aged 19 (Source: BWU)
Unsafe working conditions at illegal Mae Pa slipper factory, Mae Sot
On July 3, 2000 at 10:00 a.m. a fire started in Mae Pa slipper factory, located near Mae Sot, due to faulty wiring. More than 400 Burmese workers were employed at the Mae Pa factory. Seven workers were injured in the fire. The worker’s barracks and many of the factory’s raw materials were destroyed in the fire. The factory owner told the workers that the factory would close. After the fire the Thai authorities arrested approximately 100 workers. As of July 6, 2000, some workers were in hiding and without money to buy food because they had not yet been paid their wages. The factory was officially shut down on July 16. The factory owner was from Hong Kong, and reportedly ran this factory illegally based on an agreement with the Thai police. Higher Thai authorities only discovered the factory after hearing about the fire as the factory owner had never legally registered the factory with the Thai government. The owner was unable to pay the government taxes and the factory was forced to shut down. (Source: BLSO)
Factory owner exchanges Burmese workers with Thai authorities for Chinese staff, MaeSot
On July 4, 2000, the owner of FK wool factory urged 1,000 workers to temporarily hide in the jungle, saying he would pay each worker 50 baht and 1 kilo of rice, because the Thai police had plans to raid the factory. But the workers demanded, through the owner’s assistant, that they be given further aid. The assistant alluded to the owner’s financial difficulties and reasoned that the owner would reject their demands; he further added that, if the workers complied, the police would not arrest them.
On the early morning of July 5, the Thai police entered FK wool factory and arrested the workers, transporting them to the Thai-Burma border. 8 Chinese staff from Hong Kong were also arrested. Though they had work visas, they were expired at the time of the arrest. The factory owner negotiated with the authorities to release the Chinese workers in exchange for 8 Burmese workers. The owner promised these 8 Burmese workers that he would give them each 200 baht for their time in detention center for daily food and assistance. However, as of July 22, the Burmese workers had not been released from the detention center or received any of the promised compensation from the factory owner. The Burmese workers in the factory decided to pressure the owner by staging a strike for the release of the prisoners. 5 leaders of the strike were fired for this action. (Source: BLSO)
SPDC officers gang-rape 3 Burmese Muslim women repatriated by Thai officers in Mae Sot
On July 8, 2000, SPDC military officers of Infantry Battalion (235), based in Thingan Nyi Naung of Karen State, gang-raped Muslim women. According to a relative of a victim, the Muslim migrant women workers were repatriated by Thai authorities in Mae Sot, Thailand. The women were unable to pay the money demanded by the SPDC authorities in Myawaddy, so they were transferred to Thingan Nyi authorities to take further action against them, where they were then gang-raped. The victims were (1) Ma Khin Win (26), Rangoon, (2) Ma Mya Khin (28), Mudon, Mon State and (3) Aye Aye Cho (25), Bilin, Mon state.(Source: MICB)
Repatriated migrant workers jailed in Myawaddy
The SPDC authorities, in Kawkareik township, levied unequal taxes on illegal workers coming back from Thailand. For a non-Muslim it is Ks. 15,000 and for a Muslim Ks. 50,000 respectively. Those who were unable to pay the taxes were sentenced to 6 months to 3 years respectively. (Source: MICB)
On June 6 2000, SPDC MI No.25, police and military officers
led by Lt. Hla Thaung of IB 331 in Mya Waddy, collected kyats 5,000 as extortion
money from each Muslim migrant worker repatriated by the Thai authorities from
Maesot. According to a merchant from Mya waddy, one Ko Win Naing 30 years and
another U Hla Maung 41 years, both from Moulmein, Mon state, unable to pay the
money, were arrested and on July 8 2000, the two Burmese Muslims were sentenced
to six months imprisonment each for illegally going out of the country.
On August 3, 2000, SPDC police and Immigration officers jailed about 150 migrant workers in Myawaddy, after they had been repatriated by the Thai authorities in Mae Sot, Thailand. According to an illegal worker, the SPDC authorities allowed the migrant workers who were able to give 1,500 kyats as bribe money to the authorities to go free. Those who were unable to pay the money to the SPDC were put into prison in Myawaddy. (Source: MICB)
Repatriated Buddhist migrant workers forced to join the army and Christian and Muslim workers put into prison or forced to be porters
On August 6, 2000, 120 Burmese migrant workers were repatriated by the Thai authorities to Myawaddy. The military officers of Battalion No. 203 led by Major Soe Naing brought them to the Pa-an head office where the workers were divided into three categories. The first group, who were able to pay 10,000 kyat in bribe money were released. The second group, Buddhists (aged between 18 and 25) were forced to join the SPDC army. The third group, Christians and Muslims were collected as porters and some were put into prison. (Source: MICB)
Repatriated migrant workers forced to hand over money to SPDC authorities
On August 28, 2000, SPDC authorities, including military personnel, collected money from workers repatriated from Mae Sot. The authorities, led by USDA Chairman U Tun Khaing of Mudon township, Mon State collected 10,000 kyat from each migrant worker. According to a migrant worker, the military personnel were from the Battalion near Mudon, Mon State. Two of the female migrant workers who had to pay money were Ma Myint Win (26) and Ma Soe Soe Oo (25) of Mudon township, Mon state. (Source: MICB)
SPDC officers rape women who was forcefully deported
On October 24 2000, Sgt. Zaw Htun and Private Aung Myint of LIB 343, which was temporarily based in PayaThoneZu (Three Pagoda Pass), Karen State on the Thai border, raped a Pa-O woman named Ma Knin Ma Yee, age 27. Ma Khin Ma Yee was originally from Thaton town, Karen State, but had been working in Thailand. She was raped at the immigration crossing point after she had been forcibly deported from Thailand. The said officers didn’t allow Ma Yee to continue into Burma, and told her that they needed to check something, and then at 7 PM that evening they raped her. The next morning, Ma Yee told the Sgt. that she wished to return to her hometown, but he refused, and sent her back to the Thai side. She is now living in Halockni Refugee Camp. (Source: DVB)
Punishment for workers deported from Ranong
In November 2000 Burmese authorities in Kawthaung agreed to accept arrested illegal Burmese workers being deported from Ranong, Thailand as of November 22. The deported workers had to pay a fine of 3,000 kyat or be sentenced to one month in jail with hard labor under Section 13/1 of the Immigration Law for illegally crossing the border. The hard labor was to be carried out at the construction sight of the Kawthaung-Tavoy border security road. The road was also being constructed with personnel from the regional development front, prisoners from Bawathit camp and local villagers. After being deported to Burma they were being kept at two temporary holding centers in Kawthaung and Dawdaik Village. (Source: DVB)
Burmese Migrant Fisherman Killed by the SPDC
On November 20th, 2000, a fishing boat named "Dyna", owned by Thai national, Mr. Baw Chop, was fishing in Burmese waters, in a area designated "Vertical A12-13", when it was attacked by the Burmese navy and 15 Burmese laborers were killed at close range. The boat was attacked by a naval vessel from the No. 46 fleet of the Burmese navy, under the control of the Morrawaddy naval base and under the orders of Colonel Thein Ngwe. The fishing boat was fired upon with heavy guns without any warning. It then approached the boat and killed all of the Burmese laborers on board one by one at close range. The navy then boarded the boat and tugged it away. The families of the murder victims were not compensated in any way. The event was witnessed by a laborer on a nearby vessel.
The victims were:
Name Age Addre
1. A Maung 32 Rangoon
2. Kyaw Oo 27 Chaung Sone, Mon State
3. Than Zaw 27 Rangoon
4. A Shay Gyee 30 Moulamein, Mon State
5. A Nwe 20 Asin, Ye Township, Mon State
6. Phoe Tharr Lay 27 Asin, Ye Township, Mon State
7. Ko Ohm 25 Moulamein, Mon State
8. Pa Kyal 30 Rangoon
9. Ka Larr 26 Tavoy, Tenasserim Division
10. A Ngal 25 Rangoon
11. San Oo 25 Pegu, Pegu Division
12. Wanna 25 Moulamein, Mon State
13. Htun Htun Oo (child) 12 not known
14. Minn Htite 20 not known
15. Zaw Win 30 not known (Source: Yoma3)
13 Migrant Workers killed by SPDC and DKBA troops after repatriation from Mae Sot
Between November 8 and December 25, 2000, at least 12 Burmese Muslim migrant workers repatriated by the Thai authorities in Mae Sot, Tak province, were killed after being returned to Burma. According to a migrant worker (name withheld) who escaped, military authorities led by Lt. Soe Win of LIB 206 under LID 22, and Bo Chit Thu of the DKBA killed the 12 workers. (Source: MICB)
1. U Ya Sin, age 40, killed on November 8, 2000, from Ladawei Village, Pa-an township, Karen State.
2. U Thya, age 34, killed on November 15, 2000, from Kyondoe, Kawkareik township, Karen state
3. U Maung Win, age 30, killed on December 11, 2000, from Thayet Taw, Pa-an township, Karen state
4. U Kasem, age 37, killed on December 11, 2000, from Bilin, Mon state
5. U Soe Myint, age 27, killed on December 16, 2000, from Kyaik Hto, Mon state
6. U Maung Oo, age 30, killed on December 25, 2000, from Kaw Yin, Pa-an, Karen state
7. U Kyi Lwin, age 35, killed on December 25, 2000, from Moulmein, Mon state
8. U Zubair, age 29, killed on December 25, 2000, from Mudon, Mon state
9. U Sulaiman, age 37, killed on December 25, 2000, from Mee Karen, Pa-an township, Karen state
10. U Shwe Thein, age 31, killed on December 25, 2000, from Apong Myo, Mon state
11. U Hassan, age 40, killed on December 25, 2000, from Thaton, Mon state
12. U Maung Myint, age 30, killed on December 25, 2000, from Thin zayet, Mon state
13. U Abdulla, age 27, killed on December 25, 2000, from Than Phu zayet, Mon state
Karen Woman Raped by Immigration Officers, Mae Sot
On December 25, 2000, immigration officers using a white Carry Boy Van arrested 20 Burmese people who were walking beside the Mae Sot to UmPhang road in Mae Sot. They drove them to the Detention Center beside the Moei river. The van stopped near the Mae Kuu police box and two police officers told a good looking 20 year-old Karen girl that they would release her there and to follow them. They took the girl into the police box and stayed there for 30 minutes. When they took her back to the van, the girl was crying and her face was red. It is believed she was raped while in the police box. At 5 p.m. the immigration officers took everyone to the detention center. When they put everyone into cells, one immigration officer hugged the girl and another one touched her hip. She didn’t speak or eat anything in the cell for one day and one night. (Source: BLSO)
16.8 Personal Accounts
Name: Sawi Thanga
Date of interview: August 25, 2000
Place of interview: Aizawl, Mizoram
Source: Joint Action Committee Reports
Note: Sawi Thanga left his home village Tuingo of Kalemyo Township, Sagaing Division in 1997. He now earns a living as labour of wood cutting works in Mamit District (Aizawl West District) in Mizoram, India. He was arrested and deported to the border river and managed to later return.
Q: When was you arrested?
A: I was at a teashop near Aizawl Market when the
policemen arrested me. I was here to buy daily needs. It was on 1st August. I
was taken to police station and put me in lock-up for one day. The magistrate
convicted me the next day and sentenced me for 20 day imprisonment. My jail term
was to over on August 20 but as it was Sunday, I was taken out on August 18. I
was immediately made to board a bus and set off for Tio.
Q: How many of you?
A: We were taken in 3 private buses. There were 27 people in our bus. So, I think we would be about 80 people altogether. Two armed policemen escorted each bus.
Q: When did you reached the river?
A: We had dinner at Seling village. We reached Tio river early morning of August 19. The policemen forcefully made us cross the river.
Q: How many of you crossed the river?
A: I am not sure how many people really crossed the river but I think about 20 people had crossed. They boarded a boat that was pulled from the shore.
Q: Was there any Burmese soldiers at the other side?
A: Yes, there were some soldiers and a few immigration personnel watching us.
Q: How could you manage to escape?
A: I had a feeling that I would be arrested if I cross to the Burma side. So, when the policemen were busy taking video and photograph of those who were boarding a boat, I could manage to sneak among the local people who were closely watching us.
Q: Did you hear about the news of those who crossed the river?
A: I heard hear-say that they were taken to Falam and sentenced 3 years imprisonment with hard labor.
Name: Vai Lian Zing
Ethnic group: Chin
Date of interview: September 9, 2000
Place of interview: Aizawl, Mizoram
Source: Joint Action Committee Reports
Note: Vai Lian Zing is wife of Hmun Nei Thang, age 53, of Falam, Chin State. Her husband was arrested on July 31, 2000 at their rented house. He was deported on August 19 and arrested by Burmese authorities.
Q: What do you do in Mizoram?
A: My husband was a Burma policeman. As his salary was insufficient he quit his job. We then opened a small variety store in Falam. Since our store business was not good we decided to start crossed-border trading. It is our first trip. We reached Aizawl on June 26. Since we cannot receive money from the buyer of our goods as we expected we rented a room so that we can save hotel rents.
Q: When was your husband arrested?
A: Policemen along with a few YMA members came to our place on July 31 at around 5 in the evening. As I was not feeling well and lying on my bed, the policemen arrested my husband and four of our visitors.
Q: What happened then?
A: He was put in lock-up for one day and was sentenced 20 days imprisonment. I could have visited him in jail seven times but I was not allowed to talk with him. I was only allowed to give eatables to him through a jailer.
Q: When was he deported?
A: On August 18 at 2 in the afternoon, he was taken out of jail along with other Burmese. They were made board a bus. I was not allowed to talk nor give anything to him. I was aware that the buses were heading for Tio river.
Q: Did you hear about your husband then?
A: I do not hear anything about him except the fact that he was arrested by Burmese authorities at Tio and taken to Falam. I need to be here to wait for the money.
Photos of The Situation of Migrant Workers from Burma
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