10 - 16 July 2015
Compiled by Kate McFarland
- People smugglers imprisoned, but no trafficking charges filed
- UN chief writes to parliament as navy chief finds dozens of migrants
- Thai defamation trial opens for journalists over trafficking report
- Three more kingpins nabbed in connection with human trafficking at Thai border
- Only 1,600 Rohingya apply for green cards
1. People smugglers imprisoned, but no trafficking charges filed
Myanmar Times, July 15: “People smugglers imprisoned but no trafficking charges filed”
- Twenty accused human smugglers suspected of transporting desperate Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingya refugee seekers have been convicted of violating immigration laws, but are so far off the hook for human trafficking charges, with the government sticking to its line that there have been no cases of trafficking in Rakhine State.
- The 20 accused smugglers were discovered onboard vessels rescued by the Myanmar navy off the coast of Rakhine State and the Ayeyarwady delta on May 21 and 29. The accused were separated from the passengers and arrested following the recovery of the vessels.
- The 20 suspected smugglers were sentenced on June 15 to five years in prison for breaking Myanmar’s immigration law, according to police.
- The accused have also been charged but not yet tried for “habitual dealing in slaves”, kidnapping or abducting a child under 10 years, using an illegal SIM card, driving a boat without a licence and other offences.
- None of the suspects are facing human trafficking charges, even as the boats’ owner is currently being prosecuted for such crimes in Thailand.
2. UN chief writes to parliament as navy chief finds dozens of migrants
Myanmar Times, July 15: “UN chief writes to parliament as navy chief finds dozens of migrants”
- United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has written to the parliament urging a regional solution to the boat crisis that erupted in May, as state media reported Myanmar’s navy had discovered more than 100 migrants stranded for weeks on a southern island.
- Mr Ban had promised in the letter, dated June 22, to “negotiate positively” on the boat people issue and other sensitive topics.
- He said that he understood the “complicated situation” of migration in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal and urged the region’s leaders to prioritise the saving of migrant’s lives.
- He also said a regional level-response that takes into account all points of view is “urgently” needed to settle the root causes of the problem.
- Meanwhile, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported yesterday that a group of 102 men had been picked up by Myanmar’s navy off the southern tip of Tanintharyi Region.
- “Some said they were forcibly taken from their country, while others reported having been enticed by human traffickers to work in Malaysia,” said the report, which said all of those found had come from Bangladesh.
3. Thai defamation trial opens for journalists over trafficking report
Yahoo News, July 15: “Thai defamation trial opens for journalists over trafficking report”
- Two journalists, including an Australian editor, went on trial in Thailand Tuesday over a report they published implicating the navy in human trafficking, as the United Nations urged the junta-ruled nation to drop the case.
- The charges, brought last year, relate to an article in July 2013 by Phuketwan quoting an investigation by Reuters news agency which said some members of the Thai navy were involved in trafficking Rohingya Muslim asylum-seekers who had fled Myanmar.
- Reuters has not been charged over its reporting -- part of a series honoured with a Pulitzer Prize last year -- and rights groups have accused the navy of trying to muzzle a small media outlet.
4. Three more kingpins nabbed in connection with human trafficking at Thai border
The Malay Mail Online, July 14: “Three more kingpins nabbed in connection with human trafficking at Thai border”
- Police have arrested three more kingpins in connection with human trafficking at the Malaysia-Thailand border in Wang Kelian, Perlis where mass graves of Bangladeshi and Rohinya victims were found in May.
- This was confirmed by Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, who, however, declined to comment further on the arrests. He said operations to nab other culprits were still ongoing.
5. Only 1,600 Rohingya apply for green cards
Mizzima, July 14: “Only 1,600 Rohingya apply for green cards”
- A plan by officials in Myanmar to issue new identity cards in Rakhine state has fallen short, with only 1,600 Rohingya applying for the green cards according to a report by VOA on 13 July.
- The cards, aimed at providing legal documentation while people go through the citizenship process, are meant to replace the nearly 400,000 white identity cards that authorities revoked earlier this year.
- But Maung Maung Than, Director General of the Rakhine State Immigration and Population Department, says some will not accept the new cards if the government insists they identify themselves as Bengali.
- “New documents for those who want to seek citizenship are being issued and some have applied and already received it," he said. "Others are also being advised to do so. In the meantime, there are some instigators [who say] that [they] will only accept [the cards] if the term Rohingya is recognized.”