News: Thailand: Thai Yai women not allowed to go home Without Thai papers they cannot return

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Subject: News: Thailand: Thai Yai women not allowed to go home Without Thai papers they cannot return
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Aug 09 1999 - 16:49:23 EDT


Thai Yai women not allowed to go home
Without Thai papers they cannot return
Aphaluck Bhatiasevi
Bangkok Post, August 9, 1999

Five Thai Yai women who were lured to Japan five years ago want to rejoin
their families in the North, but cannot return because they do not have
Thai citizenship.

The women, in their twenties, were born and raised in the hills in Chiang Rai.

In common with many hilltribe people, they do not have Thai nationality.

Rutsuko Shoji, who heads Help, an Asian women's shelter in Tokyo, said the
women needed special permission to re-enter Thailand.

"We have been unsuccessful in our efforts and have not received any
co-operation from the authorities," she said.

Thai ambassador Sakthip Krairerkh said the Foreign Ministry was trying to
assist the return of Thai women lured into the sex industry in Japan, but
authority to issue documents to people lacking Thai nationality rested with
the Interior Ministry.

>From 1991-1995, many women from northern Thailand were smuggled into Japan
via Singapore on fake passports.

Most of them were made to work in the sex industry for at least two years
before they were set free, after paying back their brokers for taking them
to Japan.

Japan's Ministry of Justice said the number of illegal stayers in the
country peaked in 1993 at 298,646 people, including 55,383 Thais.

The economic recession has since hit the entertainment businesses and is
making it difficult for Thai service girls to stay in Japan, where the cost
of living is very high.

Many Thais are beginning to approach authorities seeking to return home,
said Kazuaki Fukuyama, a foreign liaison officer at the Immigration Bureau.

Mr Fukuyama said since most of the women entered Japan without their legal
documents, it took time to verify their nationality.

If they had Thai nationality, the Thai embassy contacted their relatives
and arranged for their return, he said.

"However there's a problem if the women are Karen or Thai Yai and we're
still in a process of considering how to deal with this problem," Mr
Fukuyama said.

Ms Shoji said it was rather strange that the Thai government refused these
women documents.

"On humanitarian grounds, the government should permit them to return to
see their parents," said Ms Shoji.

Japanese authorities were also being approached to issue special documents
for them to be able to stay on in the country, so they could at least visit
their parents on a tourist visa.

Mr Fukuyama said deportation is the only way out for women from minority
groups.

"If the Thai government does not co-operate, they will have nowhere to go.
It is not easy for Japan to come to a definite conclusion on the matter and
we are trying our best to listen to their wishes," he said.

Ms Yayori Matsui, a women's activist from Asia-Japan Women's Resource
Centre, said the issue of protection and prohibition of discrimination
against minorities should be raised at the United Nations.

Only a few countries had ratified the International Convention on Rights of
Workers and Families, she said.


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