Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Malaysia denies Burmese human trafficking

by Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Malaysia has refuted US accusations that thousands of deported Burmese migrants were handed over to human traffickers in Thailand, while more migrants crossed over to Thailand, after the announcement of the new round of migrant worker’s registration.

Malaysian Home Ministry Secretary General Mahmood Adam said that the officials have found no evidence to support the claim. "The government had already initiated a few internal investigations, but it's baseless," the Associated Press quoted him as saying on Tuesday.

Human trafficking of Burmese migrants also sparked the debate between the Malaysian government and US lawmakers in April. The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said in a report made public in April that illegal Myanmar migrants deported from Malaysia were forced to work in brothels, fishing boats and restaurants across the border in Thailand if they had no money to buy their freedom.

The report was based on a year long review by committee staff who spoke to migrants from military-ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, and human rights activists.

According to the Senate Committee report, "a few thousand" Burmese migrants in recent years might have become victims of extortion and trafficking once they were deported across Malaysia's northern border with Thailand.

The U.N. refugee agency has registered 47,600 refugees living in Malaysia as of the end of March of whom 42,300 are from Burma.

Meanwhile, many more migrants from Burma have crossed the border illegally in search of work in Thailand. But a local NGO worker in Ranong border town warned that it is dangerous for the workers for they could be cheated by the human traffickers and sent to work in dangerous jobs such as in the fishing sector without pay.

“The incident where 54 Burmese died in frozen container truck last year is a serious tragedy. Even though, authorities arrested six of the eight suspects, this kind of incident should not happen again, ” the source said.

“Recently, the Thai government announced that it will open migrant registration this year for work in businesses where there is labour shortage. This would help more people from Burma to find work opportunities in Thailand,” the source added.

Ranong is a border town close to Kawthong township in Burma, where around 100,000 people are from Burma. In addition, it is the gateway for migrants who want to work down south of Thailand.

Last week, Thai authorities in Mae Sot border with Myawaddy township of Burma tried to stop two trucks suspected to be transporting illegal workers. The trucks met with an accident and careened off the road. The policed found 28 undocumented Burmese migrants with minor injuries. They were later deported to Burma but the drivers of the trucks fled.

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