News / Asia

UN Calls for Investigation into Alleged Thai Human Trafficking

A Thai police immigration post in the port city of Ranong in southern Thailand Oct. 30, 2013.
A Thai police immigration post in the port city of Ranong in southern Thailand Oct. 30, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— The United Nations called on Friday for an urgent investigation into allegations in a Reuters report that Thai immigration officials moved Burma refugees into human trafficking rings.
 
The report, published on Thursday and based on a two-month investigation in three countries, revealed a clandestine policy to remove Rohingya refugees from Thailand's immigration detention centers and deliver them to human traffickers waiting at sea.
 
The Rohingya, stateless Muslims from Burma, are then transported across southern Thailand and held hostage in camps hidden near the border with Malaysia until relatives pay ransoms to release them, according to the Reuters report. Some are beaten and some are killed.
 
“These allegations need to be investigated urgently,” U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Vivian Tan said in a statement. “We have consistently asked countries in the region to provide temporary protection, including protection against abuse and exploitation.”
 
Maj. Gen. Chatchawal of the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok said in the report there was an unofficial policy to deport the Rohingya to Burma. He called this “a natural way or option two.” But he said the Rohingya signed statements in which they agree they want to return to Burma.
 
These statements, however, were at times produced in the absence of a Rohingya language translator.
 
“The detainees also need to be informed about their options in a language they understand. Any decision to leave must be voluntary, and those who choose to leave must be protected against abuse and exploitation by smugglers,” said Tan.
 
Rights group seeks explanation
 
A senior official at New York-based Human Rights Watch criticized Thailand for moving detainees into established smuggling and trafficking rings and warned Thailand could face a possible downgrade in a U.S. list of the world's worst offenders in fighting human trafficking.
 
Such a downgrade would place Thailand, a close U.S. ally and Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy, on par with North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia among the worst offenders in fighting human trafficking, which could lead to U.S. sanctions.
 
“The Thai government has some serious explaining to do before the international community,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
 
The U.S. State Department is gathering information for its next Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report, due to be published in June. Thailand faces an automatic downgrade to Tier 3, the lowest rank, unless it makes “significant efforts” to improve its record in combating trafficking, the State Department says.
 
“Unless Thailand makes it a top priority to clean these rackets up, and investigate and prosecute all those involved, Bangkok should kiss goodbye any prospect of escaping Tier 3 in the annual U.S. anti-trafficking report,” Robertson said.
 
Sek Wannamethee, a spokesman for Thailand's Foreign Ministry, said the Rohingya issue was one of several the United States would take into consideration before deciding whether to downgrade or upgrade Thailand.
 
“The United States will look at the overall progress of Thailand,” he said. “The focus is on persecution and convictions and Thailand has made substantive progress.”
 
The numbers, however, suggest enforcement is losing steam. Nine people have been arrested in Thailand in relation to Rohingya-smuggling in 2013, including two government officials, according to police data. None of the arrests has led to convictions, however.
 
Thailand prosecuted 27 people for trafficking in 2012, down from 67 the previous year, according to the 2013 TIP Report. Only 10 of those prosecutions - one of them an official - resulted in convictions, the report said.
 
Clashes between Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists exploded in Burma last year, making 140,000 people homeless, most of them Rohingya. Since then, tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled from Burma by boat.

You May Like

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid