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Thailand to deport survived Myanmar migrants


April 12, 2008

Thailand to deport survived Myanmar migrants

The migrants from Myanmar who escaped suffocation while being smuggled through Thailand in a locked, stifling truck were convicted of illegal entry Friday and will be sent home, Thai authorities said Friday.

Fifty-four migrants died in the tiny truck headed for the resort town of Phuket after the driver abandoned the vehicle - normally used for transporting seafood - when its air conditioning failed Wednesday night, reported Associated Press.

Although the Thai government has put in place a system for legalizing migrant workers from neighbouring Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, Laos and Cambodia, the system has proven inadequate to cover and protect the estimated 2 million foreign labourers in the country.

The International Labor Organization noted the demand by Thai employers for migrant workers - documented or undocumented – “is continuing and may even be accelerating. However, the formal systems of recruitment are not working.” It called for the Thai government to overhaul its system for employing foreign workers.

The trafficking for labor exploitation is bound to flourish due to “a slow and expensive migrant registration system, a breakdown in the sending countries’ abilities to provide the initial documentation required, Bill Salter, ILO's Sub-regional Director for East Asia.

For almost a decade Thailand has registered foreign labourers usually employed in the fisheries, construction, agricultural and domestics sectors, allowing them to work in the country legally.

The Thai government estimates that there are some 490,000 "identified" Burma migrant workers, but the real number of these workers in the country could exceed 2 million. 

“These people are coming and they are going to come anyway, so rather than crack down on them, and driving them further underground, there needs to be a better labour migration management system,” said Alan Dow, representative of the ILO office in Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Noppadon Pattama sent to his Myanmar counterpart a message of condolence over the tragic deaths of Myanmar job seekers.

Noppadon also called for the Myanmar military government to sign a pact to combat human trafficking.

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