More From Alder's Ledge

November 14, 2012

Capitalizing On The Unwanted

How Thailand Uses Rohingya As Slave Labor
(Part of The Darkness Visible series)

(Rohingya behind bars in Thailand)

As the fate of the "lost boys" in the shipwreck in Tai Muang continues to be left in question some activist have begun making serious accusations against the Thai government. In reaction the Thai authorities did send out a spokesperson in Ranong, a port that borders with Burma, to state one last time that the 112 Rohingya had been "deported". This is of course the official record given by the Thai government. 

One such accusation is that the Thai officials had sold off some or all of the Rohingya into slavery. The claim is that the Rohingya are sold to fishing factories where they are used as "indentured servants" or flat out slave labor. This is enabled by the fact that Myanmar will not accept Rohingya back into the country. So Thailand's old method of deportation is no longer a plausible method of ridding Thailand of what the government views as "undesirables" 

Some evidence is available that shows that human traffickers do take full advantage of the desperation of the Rohingya. These heartless traffickers promise their victims an opportunity to flee Burma and make a better life in Malaysia. When the Rohingya pay the "fee" they are often taken to the highest bidder and forced into slavery. And since Myanmar, Thailand, and Bangladesh do not recognize Rohingya as a minority (and at times not even as human beings) the victims are never offered help by government. 

Rohingya children are especially vulnerable due to the high level of sexual slavery in Southeast Asia. Human traffickers who specialize in child prostitution can easily transport their victims to different markets where "sex tourism" is more profitable. 

So in this light it is highly probable that the Thai officials who "deported" the lost boys did in fact sell their victims to the highest bidder. They will most likely be forced to work on fishing trawlers and in fishing factories. Those who are lucky may be able to save up some money and restart their journey southward. 

All of this could be prevented of course. Human Rights Watch has been very vocal in pointing out that Thailand should and could easily allow human rights groups access to the Rohingya. More Rohingya could be protected from slavery and human rights abuses if the Thai would just allow the Rohingya refugee status. 

And if, just to give the Thai the benefit of the doubt, the Rohingya were actually sent back to Burma they are once again facing mass atrocities at the hands of the Myanmar military and Rakhine mobs. Another outcome the Thai officials had the chance to prevent. Another failure of humanity in the ASEAN member nation.

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