Human Rights Watch
6 June 2011
17th Session of the Human Rights Council
Item 3 General Debate
Mr. President, Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) would like to thank Jorge Bustamante, the outgoing Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, for his work, make a few observations on his final report, and raise serious concerns about human rights abuses against migrant workers in Thailand.
The Special Rapporteur emphasized his apprehensions about "the increasing abuse of irregular migrants throughout the migration process" that he observed during his tenure, and voiced concerns about a "trend towards viewing migrants as commodities, rather than as persons with rights...afforded to them through the international human rights framework."
Last year, Human Rights Watch issued a report "From the Tiger to the Crocodile: Abuse of Migrant Workers in Thailand" that extensively documented that Thai government officials and police, and private employers, enjoy widespread impunity in abusing the rights of Burmese, Lao and Cambodian documented and undocumented migrant workers in Thailand. Human rights abuses faced daily by an estimated two to three million migrant workers in Thailand include violent attacks and killings by government security forces and private individuals, extensive use of torture and ill-treatment in detention, sexual abuse, widespread labor rights abuses, and pervasive extortion. In every region we visited, from the remote provinces on Thailand's borders to major industrial zones near Bangkok, abuses of migrants were systematic and those filing grievances faced immediate, violent retaliation from a nexus of local police, officials and employers. Severe restrictions on migrants' rights to establish trade unions, to legally organize groups or associations, and to assemble and express views further reinforce the vulnerability of migrants to abuses.
The words of Aye Aye Ma, a documented Burmese migrant worker who witnessed her husband being shot to death by two Thai men who then proceeded to rape her, are telling. Local police collected evidence from the crime scene, but did not complete any further investigation, leading Aye Aye Ma to say, "I am Burmese and a migrant worker, that is why the police don't care about this case...Really they know that I can't do anything...My husband and I are only migrant workers and we have no rights here."
Human Rights Watch made 30 distinct recommendations to the Thai government overall as well as a number of its ministries, including establishing a special commission to independently investigate cases of abuses of migrants, ordering an end to torture and ill-treatment of migrants in custody, and reforming the labor law to permit migrant workers to organize trade unions to defend their rights. Over a year later, the Thai government has failed to implement even a single one of our recommendations. It is time that the Thai Government take action to adopt a truly rights respecting policy and implementation framework that will end the impunity to abuse migrants once and for all.