Thai authorities arrested more than 100 Myanmar nationals working in Maesot and the surrounding area on February 27 as part of a crackdown on illegal immigration, Eleven reported today.
“The Thai immigration department and municipal authority conducted a detailed joint-investigation in Maesot that led to the arrest of over 100 Myanmar immigrants,” said Moegyoe, the chairman of Joint Action Committee for Burma Affairs (JACBA), an NGO the assists Myanmar people in Thailand.
Among those arrested in the crackdown were people working in markets and shopping malls, Moegyoe said. A slew of similar arrests was made last year, but the detained workers were eventually released after paying fines. This time, however, some are concerned that the workers will end up in prison.
“Over the last two years, Thailand has prohibited foreign workers from doing business in Thailand. When arrests were made, workers had to pay a fine or spend between 12 days and one month in jail. But this is a large-scale operation, and I fear that fines will not preclude prison sentences. The lives of Myanmar workers in Thailand are very hard. They have to share their income with the Thai police in the form of bribes, plus they suffer from much anxiety,” Moegyoe added.
JACBA is now preparing to give humanitarian assistance to the Myanmar detainees in cooperation with Thai lawyers and Myanmar embassy officials. The detainees are not yet receiving any legal assistance.