Thursday, June 30, 2011

15 Burmese workers detained in Bangkok unrest

Wednesday, 30 June 2010 17:12 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Fifteen Burmese migrant workers were detained during Thailand’s recent political unrest, according to the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma, an NGO based in Bangkok.

After the Thai government crackdown against the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (red-shirt) rally that had paralysed central Bangkok, the Thai police department said 13 of the 417 red-shirt detainees were Burmese, but based on the latest information obtained by the NGO, the number held was 15.

Ten of the group were arrested on their way home from work at a construction site in Nonthaburi province for violating the night-time curfew imposed on May 19. They were arrested by Thai troops and police officers.

“They already have been sentenced. They [allegedly] interfered in Thai politics, so it’s difficult to appeal against their sentences,”  Thai Action Committee director Myint Wai told Mizzima.

Two of the 10 detainees who had violated the curfew were released because they could pay the fine of 8,000 baht (US$245). The rest were detained for 40 days in the detention centre at Thanyaburi because they were unable to pay the fine.

The recent chapter of political unrest in Thailand started in March and continued until May 19 as red shirts camped out behind barricades in a central Bangkok shopping district were cleared away in a Thai army assault. After red shirt leaders’ announced their surrender and were arrested, disgruntled militant red-shirt faction members  spread out across the capital, ransacking shops and setting fire to buildings.

In the wake of the violence, the government imposed a curfew for at least a week, at first between 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., and prohibited gatherings of more than five people.

Nu Khun, 27, a Burmese migrant worker among those detained for curfew violation, was sentenced to 16 months in Klong Prem Central Prison for breaking the Emergency Decree and the Immigration Act.

Four other Burmese were also being held at Klong Prem but the Thai Action Committee has been denied access to them, and details of their sentencing remained unknown, Myint Wai said. He added that a lawyer from the group continued to follow up on their cases.

The Abhisit government prohibited migrant workers from participating in the red-shirt protests, saying violators faced a fine of 100,000 baht (about US$3080) and five years in prison, according to the migrant workers department of National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB).

NCGUB official Thet Khaing said that Burmese migrant workers who work in Thailand should obey the country’s laws.

“Migrant workers should avoid doing things that can interfere with their host country, Thailand,” he told Mizzima. “They should not participate in the politics of the host nation, no matter who persuades them.”

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on June 2 signed an order for police to intensify a crackdown on illegal workers in Thailand.

According to the NCGUB migrant workers section, more than 10,000 Burmese migrant workers in Pathum Thani, Mahachai, Chonburi, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Bangkok and Phuket provinces were arrested during the crackdown.

Activists estimated that there were more than two million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. About 900,000 were working legally, according to workers’ rights groups’ estimates.

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