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Thai police and anti-trafficking officials yesterday carried out a raid on a human trafficking racket in western Thailand that had demanded hefty ransom fees in return for the release of 52 kidnapped Burmese migrants.
An investigation into the racket, led by three Burmese and five Thai nationals, began when the mother of one of the migrants contacted the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB), a non-governmental group that monitors conditions for Burmese in Thailand.
She said that kidnappers had demanded 18,000 Thai baht ($US590) each for her daughter and son-in-law; if she failed to pay, the kidnappers would kill the son-in-law and sell the daughter on to a prostitution ring. When police raided the house in Suphan Buri province yesterday, they found 24 women and 28 men, all Burmese, also detained there.
According to the Bangkok Post, the daughter and son-in-law had entered Thailand via a Burmese broker, who then abducted the two and demanded a ransom from the mother. She was eventually able to pay the fee, but the kidnappers refused to release them.
“The victims may file lawsuits against the kidnappers… likely for kidnapping and unlawfully detaining them,” said Nassir Achwarin a TACDB lawyer who is representing the migrants. “If [evidence shows that] they were trafficking people, then the other party will be regarded as trafficking victims.”
He said however that both parties could be guilty of breaking the law if it is found that the migrants entered Thailand illegally, and of their own will. Although the case is still being investigated, he said, “according to the findings, it’s pretty clear the migrants illegally entered Thailand so it’s a bit difficult”.
Thai law dictates that Burmese who were trafficked into the country are allowed a year-long work permit in order to sustain themselves while the Thai government prepares their deportation; illegal migrants on the other hand will be held in detention centres, normally for a month, before being sent back to the border.