Thai Soldiers Send Migrants Back Out To Sea To Die

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The BBC and the International Herald Tribune are reporting on a horrific practice in Southeast Asia.  Migrants from poorer countries regularly pay people to smuggle them into Thailand in hopes of scratching out a better life for themselves and their families.  One way they get their is by trusting their lives to rickety boats.  According to the BBC, the Thai navy is rounding these boat people up, binding their hands, and pulling them back out to sea with meager supplies.  They are essentially sending them back out to sea to die.
I still have a lot of questions about  this. I've sent an email to the press people at Refugees International, an organization cited in this article, and asked them for more basic information about this.  For instance, I don't know why people from Burma take boats to Thailand when they share a large land border with the country, and I don't know how people from Bangladesh make it all the way to Thailand by boat when Bangladesh is so far away.

Still one can see this dehumanization of migrants present all over the world.  It's easy to see how the Thai navy can justify this practice in their minds by saying the migrants asked for it, by risking their lives in the first place.  It's a justification that is heard often amongst nativists in the U.S. as migrants die crossing the desert from Mexico into the U.S.

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4 Comments

RickB said:

Hey Kyle,
The land border is guarded by the vicious (many brutalised child conscripts, abused who become abusers) Burmese army, also it's in part tough jungle and at times a combat zone, (Burma has different ethnic groups who are all denied rights by the regime and forcibly dispossessed, internal travel can be impossible without papers/bribes so sea can be the only option for people in some areas). Combined with the recent repressions and the damage from Nargis (which like Katrina was used by means of denial of aid to ethnically cleanse some areas and punish opponents) people have quite an incentive to endure such high risk.
Quite a lot of backpackers from rich north/ west countries used the border to get new visas there is a trade in nipping over for a day which then resets your new Thai visa dates (or did) Burmese are not able to enjoy this freedom. Thailand has been a big friend of the Burmese junta and many Burmese who do manage to stay in Thailand are exploited. However the recent change of govt heralds some changes although as yet it is too early to say if they will be good or bad-
http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=14932
As for the migrant policy that again remains brutal but this could alter it perhaps, as ever Thai and Burmese capital does cross the border easily with the Burmese Generals and Thai politician's profiting from investments and various scams all enabled by captive Burmese under a terrible regime.
Check Jotman, he has reported extensively from the region
http://jotman.blogspot.com/

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

Thanks for your wisdom on this, Rick. I didn't want to speculate on all of this, but I had a feeling it had something to do with this.

Tara said:

The Rohingya are from western Burma, so they are nowhere near the Thai border. As RickB said, the Rohingya are denied right of travel in Burma, so getting across Burma is more difficult than getting to Malaysia via sea.

There are many Burmese (Shan, Karen, Kachin, and Mon, among others) who do cross the border into Thailand, though, some as migrant workers through checkpoints, others "illegally" as refugees through the jungle. Many from western Burma get through the southern Thai border with the aid of traffickers on their way to Malaysia. This might be safer than by sea, but not as easy for Muslims given the travel restrictions.

This particular group was not headed to Thailand, as far as I know, although I could be wrong. They were headed to Malaysia, where most Rohingya and Bangladeshis migrate to in the region. This route just happens to cross through Thai waters. Some boats probably do end up in southern Thailand where they work as fishermen. They might also be aiming for the border area between the two countries. There is a lot of trafficking activity and fishing industry in that area. (Boats often get Burmese who couldn't pay their debts to traffickers, and they work as slaves.)

Malaysia is probably more than happy to let Thailand intercept them and push them back, though.

Katie said:

This reminds me of the story I read about U.S. border agents forcing Rio Grande crossers to swim back. (At least one of them DID die. For heaven's sake, they'd just swum across a big river.)

I always tell that story to immigration conservatives and try to break into their hearts with, "We HAVE to get at least SOME things changed! There is NO reason not to have a motorboat in every river-based border HQ for safely taking people back to Mexico in this kind of situation, if we're going to make them go back!"

Sad to read another story of essentially the same awful treatment.

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