Chin Asylum Seekers Held Captive by Thai Agents
22 October 2006 –
By Salai Za Uk Ling
Chinland Guardian Kuala Lumpur: More than 30 Chins are being held captive by Thai agents at the Thai-Malaysia border, two Chins who were freed after paying huge sums of money to their captors reported. The two, age 29 and 31, arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday morning along with 17 others after friends and relatives paid 2000 Malaysian ringits to their Thai captors.
The detainees are asylum seekers who were arrested by Malaysian authorities during a raid in their jungle camp near Malaysia’s new administrative quarters of Putrajaya in July. They spent nearly three months in two different detention camps before Malaysian immigration dumped them at Thailand border and reportedly sold them to Thai agents for 800 Ringits per person.
“UNHCR staff visited us and interviewed us in detention on September 18. But Malaysian immigration secretly transported us to the border and handed us over to Thai agents on 16 October,” one of them told Chinland Guardian. He said more than 90 people were housed in a 15 foot square room with no ventilation. “We could hardly breathe and it was extremely hot and stuffy.” He said a 17-year-old Chin asylum seeker is among the captives still being held at the border town of Pandang Pasah.
The armed captors demanded 2500 Ringits from each detainee with a promise to smuggle them back into Malaysia. “We told them we didn’t have that much money and tried to negotiate with them but they said they bought us from Malaysian immigration for 800 Ringits and they had to make a profit,” explains the freed captive. The Thai captors reportedly threatened them with selling them as slave laborers to Thai fishermen.
“What I am worried about it is the fate of the remaining captives. Who knows where they will end up if they couldn’t come up with the money,” one of them said.
Malaysian government has recently stepped up a campaign against undocumented migrants, resulting in the arrest and detention of hundreds of Chin asylum seekers and refugees and other undocumented migrants.