Thai law enforcement officers in Yangon has been turning a blind eye to against a group of Thai gangs that have been extorting money from Myanmar migrant workers passing through a ferry port on their back to home, according to migrant workers.
Many of the returning workers, some of whom had been working abroad for more than a decade, said the local Thai police are aware of the extortion activities and at times, cooperate with the local gangs, possibly in return for a share of the extorted money, the workers said.
The gang resides in Pha Nam Island, on the other side of Ranong and includes around 20 members. The gang works in groups and is lead by Phisat (or) Mr. Moustache and his four brothers. The gang comes to Phanphalar ferry port Pha Nam Island around 5 am every morning and extort money in various ways from Myanmar migrant workers who were brought to the ferry port by the gang leader Phisat, the migrant workers say.
“Phisat goes to Ranong highway bus gate with his rental car. He forces Myanmar workers in his car and charges 200 bahts (US$6) each. After the car arrived at Phanpalar ferry port, his gang checked the passports of the workers and ask for another 100 bahts (US$3) each. When the immigration gate hasn’t opened yet, they ask 200 bahts each to transport the workers from other way around. Even when the gate is opened, they ask for more money by giving various reasons like port fee, warehouse fee, goods fee, book overdue fee, and writing fee. A worker who returns back to Myanmar has to pay at least 500 bahts (US$15) to them. If the workers don’t give them, the gang slaps, hits, and kicks them regardless of age or sex,” said a Myanmar worker who works at Phanpalar ferry port.
The migrant workers have accused the Thai police of pretending not to see the gang harassing the migrant workers and failing to take actions even though the gang has been caught in action on the CCTV cameras.
When the migrant workers report the gang to the police, they arrest the migrant workers after checking their backgrounds and hand them over the gang so the migrant workers are afraid to report to the authorities, the migrant workers say.
“The gang shove and hit those who don’t show their passports. When the workers got on the boat, they ask the boatman to get the money from the passengers. They hit the boatman if he refuses. As the boatman has to do this every day, he has to convince the passengers to give the money to the gang. If the passengers refuse to pay, they won’t allow the boat to depart. Nobody dares to report to the police because they are working together with the gang,” said another Myanmar worker from the Phanpalar ferry port.
He added that some Myanmar boatmen have become the lackeys of the gang and also take advantage on the migrant workers because they are afraid of the gang and they get beaten in the areas that are hidden from the CCTV cameras.
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