More Bangladeshis found in Thailand on human trafficking route

Mon Oct 13, 2014 11:09am EDT
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By Andrew R.C. Marshall and Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police found scores of sick and exhausted boat people hiding on a remote island on Monday, and all but one of the 79 suspected human-trafficking victims were from Bangladesh, according to local officials.

The discovery brings to more than 130 the number of people found since Saturday in the province of Phang Nga to the north of the famous resort island of Phuket, officials said.

The first group discovered in a rubber plantation in Takua Pa district on Saturday comprised 38 men from Bangladesh and 15 Rohingya, a mostly stateless Muslim minority from western Myanmar.

They have been moved to a shelter in neighboring Ranong province while their cases are investigated by Thai authorities ahead of possible repatriation.

The remainder were discovered on Monday, and of those 79, one was a Burmese national and the rest from Bangladesh. They are now in the local district office.

The high proportion of Bangladeshis cropping up on smuggling routes once plied mainly by Rohingya is consistent with what a leading Rohingya advocacy group says is an alarming rise in "forced departures" from Bangladesh.

"We are finding more and more cases like this," said Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, which plots migration across the Bay of Bengal. "A huge chain of people is involved."

She said the group had learned that brokers in Bangladesh were abducting men and boys, or luring them by false promises of work, then shipping them to Thailand and Malaysia.   Continued...