A group of Burmese nationals living in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai have been arrested on suspicion of forcing children to beg on the streets.
Police were first alerted to the begging ring after two girls, aged 13 and 14, escaped from a house in Thailand’s second city. Although the suspects, two women and one man, were not there at the time of the raid yesterday, they were later apprehended and are now being questioned.
Niti Chai, an attorney at the Thai anti-trafficking group TRAFCORD, which assisted the two girls in contacting police, said that the racket may have been operating in Chiang Mai for nine years.
“According to investigations, they first started using their four-year-old daughter to beg in the street by dressing her poorly,” she said. “They beat and abused the kid when she didn’t make much money. Later, they went to the [Thai-Burma border towns of] Mai Sai and Tachilek and brought more children to Chiang Mai to beg. They also beat these children.”
When police raided the house they discovered five children and a woman presumed to be their mother. Despite not being a suspect in the case, police have said she may be deported from Thailand on account of her illegal entry.
The three suspects, all over the age of 50, have reportedly told police that the five children are nieces and nephews. Those children, along with the two teenage girls, are being looked after by a local group.
Thailand’s The Nation newspaper reported however that eight children, some as young as three, were discovered.
The Thai government in May announced a crackdown on human trafficking rackets, many of which lure poor Burmese over the border with promises of high-earning jobs. Many of these are then forced into slave-like conditions.
Last month police and anti-trafficking officials raided a human trafficking racket in western Thailand that had demanded hefty ransom fees in return for the release of 52 kidnapped Burmese migrants