Scores of Burmese Immigrants Intercepted in Southern Thailand

150330-TH-migrants-train-620 Thai officials detain Burmese migrants and Rohingya Muslims in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, Thailand, March 30, 2015.

Thai police Monday announced the arrest of 76 suspected illegal migrants from Burma, including a half-dozen from that country’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.

The migrants were travelling together on a train bound for Malaysia when authorities stopped them in the southern Thai province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, news services reported.

"They were sitting with Thai passengers and upon inspection by authorities were found to have no travel documents," Reuters quoted Col. Anuchon Chamat, deputy commander of provincial police, as saying.

"It seems they wanted to go to Malaysia for work and had boarded the train at different locations along the route. It is difficult to say whether traffickers are among them," he added.

The six Rohingya, all males in their 20s, and the Burmese nationals – mostly adults and a handful of children – are being held at an immigration center in Muang district, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Agence France-Presse reported.

"The Rohingya said, via a translator, that their relatives in Malaysia paid around 70,000 baht ($2,150) each to Myanmar agents (for their passage) – but the Myanmar ones said they did not pay anyone," Railway Police Sub-Inspector Kraisorn Boonlum told AFP, using the other name for Burma.

The 76 were charged with illegal entry and most of them will be sent back to Burma, officials said.

Pending deportation, the six Rohingya will remain in Thai detention until authorities determine their nationality.

Thai officials said they were also investigating whether the six were victims of human trafficking.

In January, 98 suspected Rohingya victims of trafficking were found in pickup trucks in southern Thailand, Reuters reported.


The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority concentrated in Burma’s Rakhine State.

According to AFP, there are around 800,000 Rohingya; the U.S. Campaign for Burma puts the number at 1.33 million. They are stateless in Burma, denied citizenship and erroneously described as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Since 2012, thousands of Rohingya have fled a conflict in Rakhine state. Many have sought refuge in predominantly Muslim Malaysia, AFP reported.

This week’s mass arrest followed the rounding up by the 437th Border Patrol Police Company of 36 Burmese immigrants in a remote area along the Thai-Malaysian border in Songkhla province earlier this month, according to a BenarNews correspondent based in southern Thailand.

The detention of the 76 Burmese also came days after Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly adopted a tougher set of penalties by amending the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

Traffickers can now face life imprisonment or capital punishment in cases where their victims die, Reuters reported. Those found guilty of doing serious harm to victims can face 20 years in prison and fines of up to 400,000 baht ($12,281).

By BenarNews staff with details from news reports.


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