THAILAND: Public statement on the discovery of dead Rohingya migrants: the state is obliged to take serious legal action against the concerned human trafficking ring and facilitate aid delivery based on human rights and humanitarian principles

A Statement from the Migrants Working Group forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

It was reported that on 1 May 2015, that police officials from Sadao District, Songkhla, uncovered a concealed camp at which they found 26 dead bodies in Ban Taloh, Tambon Padang Besar, Sadao District, Songkhla. It is almost certain that the dead persons were Rohingya or Bangladeshi migrants who came to Thailand en route to Malaysia. Their migration here had been made possible by smuggling agents. The Migrants Working Group would (MWG) like to offer our deepest condolences for the deaths of the Rohingya migrants. It was further reported that more corpses have been exhumed in various spots of the site.

Until now, there has been an increase in influx of Rohingya migrants from Myanmar or Bangladesh to Thailand. They have fled from armed conflicts waged against them based on ethnic and religious reasons in Myanmar (i.e. fear persecution) or in some cases to pursue a better life. The migration has been facilitated by human trafficking groups based in Myanmar’s Arakan State. Based on our monitoring of the migration of the Rohingya, we have found they suffer a great deal while making their journey to destination country. Some have arrived here aboard rundown and crowded fishing boats and eat only one meal per day. Some are caught and arrested by Thai officials while taking land routes. In addition, according to the screening of the state multidisciplinary team, it was found that some of them have been victims of human trafficking. The member of MWG has been giving help to some of the victims whose cases are still pending review at the Provincial Court of Songkhla.

In the past three years, it was found that very few legal actions have been taken against those involved with the trafficking and transportation of Rohingya migrants. This number is disproportionate compared to the substantial number of the Rohingya migrants found during the screening process to have been victims of human trafficking and are currently being detained. In addition many more Rohingya migrants being deprived of their freedom by smuggling network.

The Migrants Working Group and undersigned organizations feel gravely concerned about the plight of the Rohingya migrants whose migration here has been facilitated by a smuggling network and how the Thai state addressesthe matter. We propose the following to the Thai government;

1. The Thai government should expedite a process to identify the dead bodies in order to determine if they were Rohingya or Bangladeshi migrants. Meanwhile, civil society organizations should be allowed to collaborate with the state, particularly in terms of the coordination with relatives of the dead being repatriated for burial.

2. The Thai government should expedite an investigation to identify any perpetrators and to take legal actions against them. In addition, an effort should be made to determine those individuals involved with the human trafficking business operations such as in the districts of Takua Pah or Hua Sai, where the Rohingya were found. Strict enforcement of the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act B.E. 2551 (2008) and international obligations to which Thailand must abide by as a state party, must be made. 

3. Among those found to have made the journey here are children, women and adults, they could be either victims of human trafficking or asylum seekers. Though Thailand is not a state party to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, but given its being a receiving country, it should provide for systematic screening of the people and ensure that children and women are provided with special protection. 

4. The state should create proper protective measures to ensure safety and to prevent further victimization after the screening is carried out by the multidisciplinary team to determine which Rohingya migrants are victims of human trafficking. 

5. The state should provide for remedies of the human trafficking victims or their families invoking the power as per the Act for the Granting of Compensation to Aggrieved Parties and the Accused in Criminal Cases B.E. 2544 (2001), etc. 

6. Support should be given for staff members of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) to perform their duties including conducting an independent interview of the Rohingya migrants in order to determine their personal status and assess their needs. Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other civil society organizations should be given a role to help provide legal and humanitarian aid. An effort should also be made to review the Immigration Act which affects individuals who have fled from lethal violence and conflicts. A special policy should be developed to provide specially for the protection of those people in accordance with the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

With respect in human rights and human dignity 
1. Migrants Working Group 
2. Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) 
3. Foundation for Women
4. Stateless Watch
5. Prorights Foundation
6. Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) 
7. MAP Foundation

For more information, please contact:
Mr. Siwawong Suktawee, Coordinator of the Migrants Working Group, phone 081 433 9125
Ms. Dararai Ruksasiripong, Foundation for Women, phone 087 582 3552.

Document Type : Forwarded Statement
Document ID : AHRC-FST-028-2015
Countries : Thailand,
Issues : Human trafficking, Impunity, Inhuman & degrading treatment, Migrant workers, Right to life, Rule of law,