Mass Burmese migrant arrest 'due to high crime rate'

May 4, 2009 (DVB), The high crime rate amongst Burmese migrants in Thailand could be the reason behind the mass arrest of over 300 migrants last week, said the chairman of a organisation dealing with migrant issues.

Around 340 Burmese migrants were arrested on Thursday during a police crackdown in Bangkok and Thai-Burma border town, Mae Sot.

The chairman of the Joint Action Committee for Burma Affairs (JACBA), Moe Gyo, said that Thai police raided workers' quarters and restaurants in Mae Sot and arrested about 300 people.

"They drove in cars around town and arrested everyone in sight, including garbage collectors and vendors," he said.

A Burmese migrant worker in Mahachai, Bangkok, which has a high concentrarion of Burmese migrants, said the police used six lockup trucks during the raid in the industrial district.

The motive behind the increasing frequency of crackdowns on illegal workers could be due to higher rate of crime attributable to Burmese migrants.

"There has been an increasing rate of crime among the Burmese migrant community, including robbery, murder and rape, as well as child trafficking," he said.

"I think the Thai authorities are sending a message to the Burmese living in the country of their intention to clear up such crimes as a part of national security."

He added that the rising crime rate among Burmese migrants was due to the hardships they faced trying to survive in Thailand, rather than lack of education. Moe Swe, general secretary of the JACBA said that non-governmental organisations in Thailand working on migrant issues should emphasise education on workers' rights, labour laws and criminal laws in Thailand.

Meanwhile, four Thailand-based groups, including migrant worker group Yaung Ni Oo, the Federation of Trade Unions and the Joint Action Committee for Burmese Affairs, gathered in Mae Sot on 1 May to mark International Labour Day.

Some of those present talked about workers opposing the Burmese government's 2008 approved constitution, which included no regulation to protect labour rights in the country, and the upcoming 2010 elections.

San San, a 1990-elected people's parliament representative, who previously worked for the government's Labour Administration office as a deputy-director, said:

"There used to be a law in Burma which gave labours a right to sit in a tripartite discussion with their employers and representatives from government labour organisations to raise their issues but that law was abolished by the military government in 1988," she said.

"The workers should be given an opportunity to campaign before the 2010 elections so that they will be able to structure a peaceful and independent workers community."

Reporting by Khin Min Zaw and Ahunt Phone Myat

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