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Over 100 Burmese nationals were arrested in western Thailand on Sunday, after being lured across the border by a trafficker who promised them jobs in the Kingdom, according to local news reports.
The group was arrested in the woods near the Thai border town of Mae Sot, which hosts a vast population of Burmese migrants, after making the illegal border crossing from eastern Burma’s Karen state.
Preecha Jaipetch, a local government spokesperson, told Manager Online that the group’s leader Zaw Htun had confessed to leading the migrants — who are aged between 20-35 years old and include 10 women — across the border with the help of a Thai “agent”.
The “agent”, who reportedly charged the group between 4,000-9,000 baht (US$135-303) to be trafficked into Thailand, was armed and escaped into the jungle as soon as the authorities discovered them, according to one of the arresting officials.
The Burmese migrants appeared to be starving after travelling over 50 kilometres (30 miles) through the jungle for two days – on their way to Mae Ra Mo village in Tak province, where another “agent” was supposed to pick them up.
It follows news that 120 Burmese migrants were arrested by immigration police in Mae Sot on Saturday and will be charged with staying in the kingdom illegally, before being deported back to Burma.
Every year, thousands of people from Burma fall into the clutches of “agents” or traffickers, who lure them into paying exorbitant sums of money with the promise of obtaining jobs in Thailand. They are often forced into debt bondage and unwanted jobs.
Migrants in Thailand make up about five percent of the county’s workforce, and provide a crucial pool of labour for low-skilled, often dangerous, industries such as fishing and construction. Up to three million people, or about 80 percent, are estimated to come from Burma, and often occupy a quasi-legal existence that leaves them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.