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The body of a Burmese man was found in a dumpsite yesterday in Thailand’s popular holiday destination of Phuket.
According to Thai media, the body has been identified as Paing Toe Kyaw, a 51-year-old Burmese migrant worker.
Police went to the scene after local residents reported a “foul smell” and discovered the body bound and wrapped in a blanket.
A doctor accompanying the police said the man appeared to have been dead for a week, which he said made it difficult to examine the body to determine the cause of death.
Another Burmese migrant living on the resort island confirmed that Paing Toe Kyaw was a fishing boat worker and said he was involved in a quarrel with his “employment agent” on 27 April after he made a complaint about being underpaid.
The agent reportedly visited Paing Toe Kyaw’s house and hit him over the head with a stick before fleeing. Paing Tow Kyaw left his home to seek medical attention at a hospital, but never returned home.
Southeast Asia is one of the world’s largest exporters of seafood, but the industry relies heavily on undocumented workers, who often suffer severe abuses at the hands of their employers.
Unregistered “agents” who organise employment for migrant workers are also implicated in the abuses. Agents are often accused of withholding pay, confiscating workers’ documentation and detaining workers.
An Associated Press investigation into “seafood slavery” in the region resulted in the freeing of 2,900 fishermen and won a Pulitzer Prize for a journalist from Kachin State and three of her colleagues.
The Thai government has attempted to regulate the flow of migrants from Burma and other neighboring countries, but with limited results. Despite the introduction of work permits, many poor Burmese migrants continue to rely on unofficial agents because they lack documentation to work in the country illegally.