Migrant ‘was chained to hospital bed’

Shackles were today removed from a severely injured Burmese migrant worker who had been chained to his hospital bed in central Thailand.

Charlie Deeyu was taken to hospital on 9 January with severe wounds to the abdomen and a broken femur. Weeks later, after being moved from a general hospital to a police hospital, Thai authorities controversially deemed that his illegal status in the country warranted chaining him to his hospital bed, despite the fact that his injuries rendered him immobile.

The Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), a Thai NGO, told DVB that “the system has really let him down”. Deeyu had no legal papers on him, meaning that both his employers and the Thai labour ministry refused to cover the cost of his treatment.

The 28-year-old had incurred the injury at the construction site he worked at in Pathum Thani province. “A metal bar hit him and ruptured his intestines and broke a femur bone,” Andy Hall from HRDF told DVB.

On 20 January, weeks into his hospital stay, Deeyu’s work permit expired. Following his failure to pay medical fees, hospital staff informed the police that he was an “illegal”. HRDF believes this is against the Ministry of Public Health’s own regulations on the humanitarian treatment of all people, irrespective of their legal status.

“We also believe that the police should not have arrested him. We believe that both the hospital in Pathum Thani and the police were wrong to ensure that this guy ended up in the immigration detention centre”.

Following the 31 January payment date, police then transferred Deeyu to a detention centre for deportation back to Burma. HRDF then intervened, arguing that a person in his condition could not be deported and that his illegal status resulted from his injuries. The immigration department then agreed to transfer him to the Police General Hospital in Bangkok.

But under police custody at the hospital he was shackled to his bed. HRDF claims his treatment was in breach of Section 26 and 31 of the 2007 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and order 1438/2552 of Thailand’s Central Administrative Court.

But following the intervention, Deeyu was today unshackled. “The chains were removed today just before 11 o’clock this morning by order of the office of the head of [Thai] immigration,” confirms Hall.

He added that the cost of his treatment will now be borne by the Thai immigration department, given that he is now in their custody awaiting deportation.

Deeyu’s employer was a subcontractor whom Hall confirms has since “disappeared”. According to Thai law, however, had Deeyu not been in immigration custody he would not be eligible for the employment protection program insurance scheme, thus making his employer liable to cover the nearly 80,000 Thai baht ($US2,600) expenses. He is also owed compensation from the employer for his injuries under the Workplace Compensation Act.

Having arrived at the Police General Hospital, doctors found that he had an undiagnosed broken femur.

For now Deeyu is technically still awaiting deportation from Thailand, despite having been physically unable to renew his work permit. Hall tells DVB however that, “We strongly expect that the Royal Thai Government will urgently renew his work permit, to restore his legal status, both on humanitarian grounds and on ethical and basic moral grounds. He hasn’t done anything wrong, so his work permit should be renewed and he should be able to go back and work in Thailand normally”.

Deeyu’s case follows one incident in Thailand and a second in Malaysia where officials have not adhered to their own laws to ensure humane treatment of Burmese migrant workers.

There are thought to be as many as two million migrant workers in Thailand, comprising some 5 percent of the work force. Only roughly 1.3 million are said to be legally in the country, but the case of Deeyu brings into question the worth of legal status in such circumstances.

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