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Human smugglers fingered & Put an end to trafficking

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Human smugglers fingered

Bangkok Post, 14 April 2008
Post Reporters

The Je Ngor (elder sister Ngor) gang is one of the five most influential groups bringing illegal Burmese job seekers into Thailand, according to reliable sources in Ranong.

The Je Ngor gang is thought to have smuggled the 54 Burmese into the country who died of suffocation in the back of a sealed cold-store truck in Ranong last week.

These gangs are well-entrenched networks of Thai and Burmese job brokers who use bribes to avoid arrest on both sides of the border.

The Je Ngor gang mainly supplies cheap labour from Mawlamyine (Moulmein) in southern Burma to the coastal province of Ranong, the sources said.

Currently, there are at least five such groups of people in Ranong, a coastal province bordering Burma, bringing in illegal Burmese workers, the sources said.

The Je Ngor gang had probably brokered the arrival of the 121-strong group of Burmese, including the 54 who died, who entered through Ranong and were packed into the cold-storage 10-wheel truck on Wednesday night for secret transport to Phuket. These job seekers picked up in Burma were taken by gang members to Koh Song islet in Ranong by boat last week.

They were told to wait for a truck at a fish market, which picked them up about 8pm on Wednesday.

“We were sandwiched in the truck, unable to move. There were far too many people crammed inside,” recalled Ko Hla, 32-year-old survivor.

Soon after the truck left the market, people began gasping for air and then rapidly began suffocating because the ventilation system was not functioning.

Driver Suchon Bunplong eventually stopped the vehicle, but fled when he saw the dead bodies, Ko Hla said.

Police are still searching for him.

Ko Hla, who came from Tavoy, on the Burmese southern coast, with his 19-year-old girlfriend, said the tragedy had not discouraged him from working here.

Life is too hard in Burma, he said.

He spent a lot of money on brokers in Burma and Thailand.

He and the other illegal migrants gathered in Moulmein where they were contacted by Burmese brokers, who passed themselves off as bus drivers or taxi motorcyclists.

The brokers hide them in large cargo boats, which travel to Ranong at night, the source said.

Ko Hla said he paid 12,000 baht to the broker. This was just enough to take him to a job in one of the southern provinces like Prachuap Khiri Khan or Phuket. To work in Bangkok, illegal immigrants need to pay up to 15,000 baht.

The source said when the trucks are stopped for a check at roadblocks in Ranong no one is taken into custody. “All you have to do is show a 500 baht note and you are allowed to go,” the source said.

Police also arrested 51 illegal immigrants travelling in the cold storage compartment of a truck in October last year.

Je Ngor and the other human trafficking gangs are scattered all over Ranong province, the source said.

Whenever any gang members are arrested, they get only light sentences and resume their illegal activities once they are out of jail.

“We could say that most of them are on a blacklist, but no officials stop them operating,” the source said.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/topstories/topstories.php?id=127099

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Put an end to trafficking

Bangkok Post, Editorial, 14 April 2008

As terrible as the deaths in the Ranong people-smuggling case were, this terrible event provided only a brief glimpse of the obscene and shocking horror of human trafficking. Let there be no euphemisms in this case and thousands of others, either. What occurred along the Ranong-Phuket road late last Wednesday night has a number of root causes. But the deaths of 54 Burmese occurred because the lives of disadvantaged people are essentially bought and sold. Authorities have a turned a blind eye to the problem for too long, and action is badly needed or the death toll will mount.

According to those same authorities, they could start almost immediately, both to fight human trafficking and punish those behind the 54 murders of Burmese workers. Police in Ranong province bragged to the media last week that they know of six people deeply involved in the dirty business. Police said three men and three women in Ranong control all facets of a highly organised sale of people for labour.

One could fairly say these six people supposedly in police cross-hairs are involved in a slave trade. They organise groups of men, women and even children – a girl was among the 54 people killed – and transport them to a work site. There, they receive money from a business operator who pays the workers less than the minimum wage. Every facet of the workers’ lives is controlled.

Last week, something went wrong with this well organised and lucrative human trade. It appears the ventilation system in the container used to ship the human cargo from Ranong to Phuket broke. By the time the desperate Burmese locked in the back of the truck managed to alert the driver, the shipping container had effectively become a grim charnel house. The owner of the truck is under arrest. A reward has been offered for apprehension of the driver. Clearly, they are not the kingpins or senior figures behind this trade in human beings for profit.

The first and important villain to blame for the 54 Burmese deaths is the Burmese dictatorship. This motley and vicious regime has both impoverished the country and encouraged the flight of a million Burmese to Thailand. The desperation of Burmese is evident from the fact they are willing to work for a fraction of the Thai minimum wage. The government is right to demand that Burma‘s despots address the conditions that put citizens in such dire straits.

But the government cannot get off the hook by shifting its own blame to Burma. Not only Burmese, but Lao and Cambodian illegal immigrants are also mistreated, and even bought and sold here. In all of history in Thailand, the authorities have prosecuted exactly one human trafficking case.

The shocking murders in Ranong have put Thailand firmly in the foreign headlines as a country with a serious problem of human trafficking. It is necessary that those behind the human bondage racket in the South be arrested and prosecuted. But the government must pursue this human rights problem aggressively. Every Thai knows with pride that King Chulalongkorn the Great put an end to slavery. It is necessary to turn that edict into actual practice.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/140408_News/14Apr2008_news09.php

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

April 14, 2008 at 4:03 pm

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