U Sai Aye, the official interpreter of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok said the Burmese migrants that the victims had languished in one room after an agent, who had promised them jobs in Malaysia, abandoned them in the face of travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
None of the migrants were aware of where they were when they contacted the embassy. The Myanmar Embassy requested assistance from the Thai military.
With the help of immigration police, Thailand military rescued the group in Sungai Kolok, a town in Narathiwat province, near the border with Malaysia, according to Sai Aye. The Thais handed over the victims to Myanmar authorities.
These migrants were charged each 1 million Myanmar kyats ($1,000) by agent. The agent promised to take them from Myanmar to Malaysia via Bangkok, according to Sai Aye. The agent told the victims they did not need passports for the trip, which was routed through illegal border crossings.
Sai Aye said when all border crossings became difficult because of heightened security designed to contain the spread of COVID-19, the agent abandoned the group. The migrants eventually managed to contact the embassy, which gave the GPS information from their call to the Thai military.
“They were rescued this morning and are safe under military care,” Sai Aye said. He added that the victims will be handed over to Thai Immigration for repatriation. There is no information on the agent’s whereabouts.
Thai authorities has last month arrested seven Myanmar nationals from Sungai Kolok district of Narathiwat, Department of Special Investigation deputy director-general Traiyarit Temahiwong told the Bangkok Post. The youngest person arrested was 15 years old, according to the newspaper.
The 2019 US State Department Trafficking Persons report says Myanmar “is not making significant efforts” to eliminate trafficking.
The State Department report found that Thailand “is making significant efforts” to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
“These efforts included identifying more victims, sentencing convicted traffickers and complicit officials to significant prison terms, developing several manuals in partnership with civil society to standardize anti-trafficking trainings and policies,” according to the report. “Labor inspectors, for the first time, identified and referred potential victims to multidisciplinary teams, resulting in the identification of labor trafficking victims.”