[Stop-traffic] News/THAILAND: POLICE CRACK DOWN ON PEOPLE SMUGGLERS.

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/THAILAND: POLICE CRACK DOWN ON PEOPLE SMUGGLERS.
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Fri Jan 01 1904 - 14:50:37 EST


8-8-00 THAILAND: POLICE CRACK DOWN ON PEOPLE SMUGGLERS.
By LAURENA CAHILL.
IMMIGRATION police are cracking down on Thai syndicates running lucrative
smuggling rackets involving illegal immigrant workers.
In the past month, 100 traffickers have been charged with illegal smuggling
- mostly across the Thai-Burmese border.
The move to crack down on smugglers comes as immigration officials admit
the tide of illegal immigrants across Thailand's borders with Burma, Laos
and Cambodia is rising to record levels.
"This is profitable activity for Thai smuggling gangs," Pol Col Jinabhadra
Tansrisakul, Immigration Superintendent at Suanplu, the country's largest
detention centre, in central Bangkok.
Col Jinabhadra estimates illegal traffickers get paid between Bt3,000 to
Bt6,000 per head from Burmese immigrants desperate to get work in Thailand.
Many of these gangs are importing illegal immigrants to order, for Thai
factory owners in Bangkok and the Eastern Seaboard.
"We believe that 70 per cent of migrant workers wind up in the greater
Bangkok areas and in the industrial zones of the eastern coast.
"The best way to clamp down on this racket is to catch the smugglers in the
act, which takes a lot of work and police manpower, but this is where we
have to concentrate our efforts," he said.
Although precise figures on the influx of illegals are sketchy, Pol Maj
Supote Prungthanyaphurk, of the Immigration Investigation Division,
confirmed that 100,000 illegals have been repatriated overland to Burma,
Laos and Cambodia over the past nine months.
"We are uncertain how many illegals have entered Thailand in recent months,
but we know that 100,000 have been returned since last November and that is
the highest figure we have seen, so far."
At Suanplu Detention centre, Col Jinabhadra is anxious to return detainees
as quickly as possible in a bid to keep numbers at manageable levels. Right
now the detention centre is running at full capacity with 1,200 inmates.
Sixty per cent are Burmese, mostly men in the 18-to-40 age group. A further
30 per cent are from Cambodia and the remaining 10 per cent from Laos.
Detainees from the latter countries tend to reflect a wider spread of age
and gender variation than the Burmese.
Detainees are kept for two to three days and then rushed back across the
border. They are fingerprinted during detention, but immigration officials
admit identifying illegals is problematic. Many detainees refuse to give
personal information to the police.
"We cannot really follow up identification through fingerprinting because
we may not have enough accompanying information to make a proper ID,"
Jinabhadra said.
"None of the detainees from neighbouring countries have passports or ID
papers.
"I know from seeing the same faces that some detainees have been held here
before - some have been here seven or eight times in the past."
The detention centre chief admits further new strategies have to be adopted
in addition to cracking down on smugglers.
"We need to clamp down more heavily on factory owners who make use of
migrant workers. We need to upgrade our use of information and set up
Internet links with all Immigration border crosspoints so we can coordinate
information.
"This should help cut delays in returning workers back to their own
countries."
But the Immigration official denied that Immigration police act on tip-offs
from factory owners wanting to avoid paying workers their wages. It has
been alleged some bosses work in cooperation with the police, who swoop to
make illegal labor raids on factories before pay-day.
"It is simply not true," said Jinabhadra.
"Factory bosses have to pay these immigrants once a week or every 10 days
at the maximum. So they are really never in a position to save a lot of
money by blowing the whistle on them. This is not what happens and we do
not work with them."
The detention centre head admitted he and his department had no instant
solutions to stop the flood of cash-strapped migrants flooding across the
country's porous borders. "We do the best job we can, but we need more
resources and equipment, and I am confident that we will get the budget to
allow us these improvements."
(c) 2000 Nation Multimedia Group Public Co., Ltd.
THE NATION (BANGKOK) 08/08/2000
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