The Lawyers Council of Thailand urges the government to tackle Rohingya trafficking organizations

The Lawyers Council of Thailand has issued the written statements to the PM and other related departments, stating its concern over an increasing number of Rohingya people smuggled by sea, as a result of insufficient measures and compromised practices on prosecuting human trafficking organizations.

Since 2008, Rohingya people have migrated to Thailand by boat. Initially, the authorities focused on driving them out of Thai Territorial Waters. However, the reality turned out that the number did not reduce, on the contrary, it increased significantly; hence, these people kept returning and crossing to work in Malaysia.

The Human Rights Committee of the Lawyers Council of Thailand has suggested the PM, the Secretary-General of the National Security Council, the Minister of Social Development and Human Security, the Minister of Defense, and Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police in its written statement on strategies to tackle situations of Rohingya boat people as follows:

1. The government must thoroughly prove facts and backgrounds of each Rohingya individual so as to categorize them into groups and carry out appropriate means under legal and humanitarian principles in cases that their status are qualified as asylum seekers- refugee-related organizations must be allowed to access and provide supports, and in case where they are victims of human or labor trafficking- the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and other concerned departments must intervene and deliver necessary assistances;

2. The government must not illegally deport Rohingya people because it may be against the Non-Refoulement Principle, which prohibits the receiving country from sending any foreign individual to the country of origin, where there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be in danger of being subjected to human rights violations. Furthermore, deportation of illegal migrants under Section 54 of the Immigration Act B.E.2522 shall apply only with Burmese, Laotian and Cambodian citizens who plead guilty of illegal migration. Cases of people of other citizens must be brought to courts of law for official judgment and;

3. The government must seriously prosecute human trafficking gangs, which can be considered as one form of international crime organizations that have both domestic and international networks. This is because most of Rohingya migrants pay a lot of money to these illegal traffickers to help them flee to another country, especially Malaysia. Therefore, the structure of the gangs or organizations is usually comprised of people with different nationalities.

Mr. Surapong also added that “Public sectors must put more commitment to this issue and more efforts to solve the problems. Pushing these migrants away does not improve the situation and may be seen as assisting trafficking gangs since the deportees, by paying traffickers, will, again and again, try to flee to Thailand and cross to Malaysia. As a result, the authorities are not able to realize their movements, and the deportation will be endless. Therefore, a personal records collection and a witness protection program shall be applied to terminate human trafficking organizations once and for all”