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Feb 26, 2010 (DVB)-Thai soldiers have shot and killed three Burmese migrant children and wounded five more when they opened fire on a pick-up truck that sped through a border checkpoint.
The incident occurred yesterday in Ranong province, southwestern Thailand. Like all of Thailand’s border regions, Ranong is under martial law, and acts as a major crossing-point for Burmese migrants into Thailand.
The victims, a three-year-old girl and two boys aged six and 16, were killed instantly, according to AFP, while three more remain in hospital.
"Initial reports showed the vehicle was heading toward them and they shot at the tires in self defense when it failed to stop," police colonel Veerasin Kwangseng told Reuters.
He added that the driver of the pick-up would likely be charged with attempted murder for his failure to stop, and with smuggling illegal aliens, while the surviving migrants may be charged with illegal entry into Thailand.
The incident mirrors an episode two years ago in which Thai troops shot and killed a 10-year-old Burmese boy who was being smuggled into Thailand in a lorry along with 27 other migrants.
More than two million Burmese migrants live in Thailand, many of whom work illegally in low-skilled industries. An ongoing attempt by the Thai government to have the migrants registered in their home country has drawn the ire of rights groups who complain that they will be intimidated or threatened by Burmese authorities if forced to return and hand over their details.
A recent report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch said that those who refuse to comply with the demands, and are likely to be deported, "face ethnic and political conflict in their home country".
It also condemned the treatment of migrants in Thailand, with "many officials and police [treating] migrant workers like walking ATMs".
Reporting by Francis Wade