Thailand urges Burma to search for migrant murderers

Feb 24, 2010 (DVB)-Thailand has requested assistance from Burma’s ruling junta in finding the murderers of nine Burmese migrants killed on Thai soil last month.

A group of unknown gunmen, believed to be Thai who had trafficked the jobseekers from Burma into Thailand, opened fire on the group of 12 in late January, killing nine.

Shortly after the incident, a senior police commander in Thailand pointed the finger at a local police unit in the country’s western Tak province. The unit’s leader, Major Somchai, however committed suicide on 30 January, allegedly after confessing to colleagues of his role in the murder.

Four of the victims were women who were travelling to Bangkok from Mae Sot, a town on the Thai side of the border that acts as crossing point for millions of Burmese migrants. The other three managed to escape.

A Thai foreign ministry official told DVB on condition of anonymity that the Thai government believed the remaining gunmen had fled to Burma, although he said their whereabouts are unknown.

He added that the identity of the victims, all Burmese who had crossed into Thailand in search of work, gave the Burmese government an incentive to find the killers. The foreign ministry has also approached Burma’s ambassador to Thailand for assistance.

It is believed the jobseekers were killed after they failed to pay a sum of money, reportedly 1000 baht ($US33), to the traffickers.

Lek, an official from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Thailand, said that the onus was on local police in Tak province to spearhead the investigation.

“I think they are committed to take action to ensure that the murderers are found,” he said. “It is for the confidence of the local people and also people all over the world that the [Thai] government is in charge and takes responsibility to make sure that justice is done.”

The plight of Burmese migrants in Thailand has come under the spotlight in recent months following threats by the Thai government that all migrants will be deported unless they register for permits in their home country.

Around three million Burmese migrants live in Thailand, many of whom hold no legal status and work in low-skilled industries, often with no access to healthcare. Human traffickers along the Thai-Burma border prey on the thousands who cross into Thailand each year to escape conflict and persecution in Burma.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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