Eight Burmese human trafficking victims were freed during a raid by Thai immigration authorities in Mahachai, Thailand, yesterday. The victims include 2 women and 6 children, ages 15 to 17.

logoHurform-Immigration raid frees eight human trafficking victims near Bangkok
January 13, 2009
Women and Child Rights Project:
Eight Burmese human trafficking victims were freed during a raid by Thai immigration authorities in Mahachai, Thailand, yesterday. The victims include 2 women and 6 children, ages 15 to 17.
The eight victims had been forced to work 7-day workweeks of 19-hours per day, for the last 3 months. Though they had agreed to work off a 25,000 baht debt to the trafficker who transported them to Thailand, they were only being given a fraction of a legal or fair working wage.
According to the victims, they were receiving only 1,000 baht per week, far below the salary their long days should have been earning. Thai law sets the minimum wage at 203 baht per day for a working day of 8 hours. Over-time is supposed to earn an extra 38 baht per hour.
The victims are now in a safe house controlled by the Thai government. None of them possess work permits, said the WCRP field reporter who spoke with them, and they are likely to be deported when the investigation into the trafficking closes.
The victims could give little information about the trafficker, whose name they said they did not know. He is around 30 years old, they described, and from their native village in Teinzayut Township, Mon State.
The victims arrived to Thailand by traveling via bus to the border near Mae Sot, and then walking for 5 or 6 days to Mahachai, on the outskirts of Bangkok.
“I didn’t want to come to Thailand to work, but I was worried for my daughter and son. So I follow them to Thailand,” said one of the victims.
The victims were initially arrested along with 171 other migrant workers from Burma. On January 12th, officials from the Thai Department of Special Investigation (DSI) entered a shrimp factory in Mahachai and arrested 100 women, 19 children and 52 men.

Corrupt taxation enriching government appointed headman in Mudon Township

HURFOM: A government-appointed headman in Nang Hlone village, Mudon Township, is enriching himself by collecting higher taxes than his counterparts in neighboring villages, say local sources.
Last week, the headman, Nai Win Shinn, began collecting a 4,000 kyat tax from rubber plantation owners, per 400 trees. The tax came at the behest of the Forestry Department. According to a source in the Naung Hlone Village Peace and Development Council (VPDC), the order was only for 200 kyat to be collected per 400 trees.
Other nearby headman appeared to be raising the tax for personal profit, but not to the degree experienced in Nang Hlong. “Some villages nearby our village have to pay one thousand kyat for four hundred trees. But in our village, the headman collected four thousands kyat,” said a local resident. Nai Win Shinn, who was appointed by the government three years ago, is reaching the end of his term as headman.
According to a former resident who moved to Three Pagodas Pass on the Thai-Burma border last year, the recent taxation is usual practice for Nai Win Shin. “He takes every opportunity on collect taxes from villagers. If upper levels order him to collect one thousand, he will collect two,” said the former resident. “There are many kinds of taxes: security taxes, for the pipeline, for militia. The cost of my labor is not enough to pay. I didn’t want to live that kind of life so I moved to Three Pagodas Pass. My life here is better – I do not have to the taxes at all.”
Nai Win Shinn stands to make substantial income from just this recent round of taxation, said the VPDC source, even though he has to share a portion of the proceeds with the Forestry Department. According to the VPDC source, Nang Hlone village is home to at least 500 families, each with more than 1,000 rubber trees.
Plantation owners, meanwhile, say that they are struggling to pay the tax, with some refusing. “The price of rubber has dramatically dropped,” said one plantation owner. According to a recent report by the Independent Mon News Agency, rubber currently fetches less than a fourth of its value a few months ago. “I own one thousand and five hundred trees,” added the owner. “I don’t know where can I get the money. Some of the rubber plantation owners in Nang Hlone villagers have given the tax to the headman, but the rest have not agreed to this.” http://rehmonnya.org/archives/579

170 migrant workers arrested in raid on Thai factory
Tue 13 Jan 2009, Mon Son, Blai Mon
Over 170 Burmese migrant workers were arrested yesterday when Thai officials conducted an immigration raid on a shrimp factory in Mahachai, Samut Sakorn Province, Thailand. ……The victims are currently in a safe house controlled by the Thai government, says a press release from the WCRP, though they are likely to be deported once the trafficking case has been investigated. The other workers seized in the factory raid are being held at the Mahachai police station, said the family member, and are likely to be deported back to Burma soon.

According to a release from a consortium of eight Thai non-governmental organizations helping migrant workers in the area, Mahachai is home to over 200,000 migrant workers, 90% of whom are from Burma. The majority are employed in the seafood processing industry.

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