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Saturday, 12 April 2008

Thai police said they planned to hold some survivors of a human trafficking disaster

Thai police said they planned to hold some survivors of a human trafficking disaster for questioning after witnesses gave police valuable information about the human smuggling network that trafficked them into Thailand from Myanmar.Survivors of the disaster in which 54 migrants died arrive at Ranong Civil Court on Friday.Fifty-four migrants died in the back of a seafood truck headed for the Thai resort town of Phuket on Wednesday night when its air-conditioning failed.Thai police charged 50 of 67 survivors with the civil crime of committing illegal entry to the Kingdom of Thailand on Friday, according to Col.Kraithong Chanthongbai, chief of Suksamran police station, who is charge of the case. A court fined them $32 and ordered them to be deported to Myanmar. Those who cannot pay the fine would serve jail terms, the court heard said. At least 14 minors were deported immediately because they were too young to face court.Two other survivors who remained in hospital would not face prosecution as a sympathetic gesture, police said. According to survivors, each of the 121 people in the truck container had paid about $160 for a driver to take them into Thailand, which has long depended on cheap labor from neighboring countries, such as Burma, Cambodia and Laos.The Thai government lets in only a small number of immigrants from those countries, and that has led to a rise in smuggling cases. Up to 2 million immigrants from Myanmar have fled to Thailand to escape chronic poverty and political conflict at home.Many smuggled migrants who do make it to Thailand end up being abused by their employers.None of the 121 migrants had identity documents, police said, so authorities tried to identify them by relying on the word of survivors. Seventeen bodies had not yet been identified by Friday, when accounts from survivors like Win began to surface.Win spoke from a cell from a police station in Suksumran, where about 65 other survivors have been taken. The police chief there said he expects to see more would-be migrants.
"We still need more labor here," he said. "There are many construction projects going on."


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