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Thai immigration officials in Mae Sot arrested a former Burmese police officer yesterday, who is accused of forging temporary passports and stamps for migrant workers, according to reports in the Thai press.
Thai authorities arrested Aung Ko Latt after discovering a fake passport that was being used by a 16-year-old Burmese migrant worker, which allegedly was procured by the former Rangoon police officer.
“Former police official from Rangoon Aung Ko Latt, suspected of forging temporary migrant passports, was arrested at the flat he rented in Mae Sot’s Thasai Laout, near the Thai-Burmese friendship bridge,” said Mae Sot’s Immigration Chief Phon Nakorn Nakornsantipat during an interview with Thai media.
According to the police chief, Aung Ko Latt’s wife is suspected of organising the racket.
Located on the Thai-Burmese border, Mae Sot serves as a major entry port for Burmese migrants hoping to work in Thailand; however, the new arrivals are often susceptible to extortion and abuse once they reach the border.
“Document fraud is common enough that there is a running joke that there are at least three or four Burmese ‘embassies’ in Bangkok issuing documents, but what’s not a laughing matter is the exorbitant fees charged by both legal and illegal brokers for processing real passports and work permits,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.
According to Robertson, migrant workers often fork out several months worth of pay and face a myriad of abuse from Thai police because they hold photocopies of official documents they haven’t finished paying for.
“It’s a situation ripe for exploitation and human rights abuses,” said Robertson.
Experts estimate that there may be more than two million migrants from Burma working in Thailand, who provide low-cost labour to the kingdom’s economy.
However, Burmese migrants often face regular exploitation, including workplace abuse, poor wages and lack of access to justice.
-David Stout contributed reporting.