Migrants freed from Bangkok ‘factory prison’

Police raids on a factory in the Din Daeng area of Bangkok yesterday ended in the release of more than 60 Burmese migrants who claim they were kept in prison-like conditions and forced to work.

The majority of those used as factory “slaves”, and Thai media has described the incident, were female, one of the released told DVB. They had been kept in four-storey building and were prohibited from leaving or making phone calls.

Thai authorities carried out the raids after two of the migrants escaped this month and told police of the situation.

“We had to live like prison inmates and I’m now having difficulty moving my lower body parts,” said one female, who came to Bangkok from the Thai border town of Mae Sot in search of better wages.

“I have been here for eight months but most of the rest have been only for about two or three months. We made an attempt to escape [in January] but they got the police to catch us and fined us THB5000 [$US165] each,” she said.

A Thai anti-human trafficking official said that employers at the garment factory had threatened further arrest if the migrants attempted to flee, adding that they were forced to work and paid little.

The Bangkok Post quoted a police official who said they had worked on average 16 hours a day for only THB200 ($US7) a month, while one migrant told DVB they received only THB10 ($US0.30) for each garment they made.

“I have about THB40,000 ($US1,330) debt and [the employers] still haven’t covered our travel expense [to Bangkok],” she said.

Trafficking of Burmese migrants to Thailand is rife: many are approached by trafficking rings in Burma with promises of higher wages in Thailand, but poor anti-trafficking enforcement and state corruption mean that the majority are forced into exploitative labour.

The Thailand-based Nation newspaper said that two of the suspects – identified as Darong Wu, 50, and his wife Namee Li, 26 – have been detained by police on suspicion of trafficking and labour violations.

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