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Two Burmese migrant sisters have drowned in a creek in Thailand’s southern beach resort town of Phuket after fleeing a raid by police on their living quarters.
The girls, 20-year-old Nyo Nyo San and Myint Myint San, aged 12, had reportedly enrolled in Thailand’s new national verification programme that looks to certify migrant workers in the country.
“Around 6pm [on 8 March], at least 10 police officers in two cars arrived at the workers’ quarters,” said fellow worker Khine Than. She added that the fear surrounding Thai police treatment of migrants had forced the workers to flee.
“The younger girl [Myint Myint San] first went into the water but she couldn’t swim so she began to drown in the middle of the creek. Her sister attempted to save her but she also drowned.”
The Thai police and other migrants watched from the riverbank, Khine Than said. “[The migrants] didn’t dare save the girls because they feared the police. Both girls died and their funeral was held [yesterday].”
The mother of the two girls, Thein Win, pinned the blame firmly on the police. “My daughters died because of them. I will not forgive them.”
Another migrant worker, Shwe Bo, told DVB that the migrant worker permits the girls were carrying often doesn’t defend against police harassment.
“It doesn’t matter whether you carry the migrant worker card or not; some police will still arrest you and you have to pay them around 6000 baht ($US180) in order to be released,” he said.
It mirrors a similar case last month in which Thai troops opened fire on a pickup truck that had sped through a police checkpoint in southwestern Thailand. The truck was carrying Burmese migrants, and three children, including a three-year-old girl and six-year-old boy, died.
A Human Rights Watch report in February criticised the Thai government for its poor treatment of migrant workers in the country, which it said were treated like “walking ATMs” by Thai police.
Around 80 percent of migrants in Thailand are Burmese, and the Thai economy is heavily reliant on the cheap labour that migrants provide.
The report said that the national verification programme, in which migrants are required to return to their home country to register for status, puts Burmese “particularly at risk” of harassment by Burmese authorities.
It added that those who refuse to comply with the demands are likely to be deported to “face ethnic and political conflict in their home country”.