Two Burmese migrants – a father and son – were sold by human traffickers a total of three times from one owner to another in southern Thailand’s Nakhon Si Thammarat Province.
The Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT), a civil society group that provides assistance to Burmese migrants in Thailand, said the two men – 45-year-old Maung Tun Tin and his son, Kyaw Naing Htay, 22, from Mrauk-U in western Burma’s Arakan State, went to work on a fishing boat in the neighbouring country and became prey to human traffickers.
“The father suffered a knee injury when he fell over on a fishing boat, so they decided to return to Burma and arranged a way back home with an agent. They were waiting for the bus at the jetty in Sichon when two Thai policemen showed up and took them away,” said Kyaw Thaung, the director of MAT.
“The police officers then sold them to a human trafficker for 8,000 baht (US$245) each, and the trafficker sold them on to another agent for 9,000 baht each. This agent than traded them to a Burmese trafficker named Phyu Phyu Win for 10,000 baht each.”
Kyaw Thaung said the MAT, following a tip-off from an Arakanese community group in Phuket, went to Sichon along with police and members of another migrant rights group, Foundation for Education and Development (FED) on 21 January. There they rescued Maung Tun Tin from a fishing boat that was just about to leave shore. His son was rescued from another fishing boat soon afterwards.
The two were handed over to the Burmese government’s Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce in Myawaddy, at the Thai-Burmese border, on Monday, 26 January.
One woman has been arrested in connection with the case while the two policemen and the Burmese trafficker who sold them to the fishing boat are still at large.
The MAT said that they had identified at least four more Burmese migrants held as slaves on fishing boats who were sold by human traffickers six months ago. The group is currently attempting to rescue them.
Kyaw Thaung said cases of Burmese migrants falling victim to human trafficking gangs are common in Thailand, but little action is taken to stop it.
In 2014, he said, the MAT was able to rescue 120 Burmese migrants in 12 separate human trafficking cases.