Bangkok, Thailand - IJM Thailand assisted Thai authorities this week in a rescue operation of 18 Myanmar migrant workers who were reportedly held against their will in a confectionery factory located in central Bangkok.
IJM Thailand was informed last week by Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) of a potential human trafficking and forced labour case that DSI had received from the Myanmar Embassy. The report concerned at least 10 Myanmar workers in Thailand who had requested help to be rescued from a confectionery factory in central Bangkok. According to the embassy’s labour attaché, the migrant workers stated they were illegally brought into the factory and wanted to leave but could not.
On the morning of January 27, IJM Legal and Aftercare staff assisted officers from DSI, the Myanmar Embassy and other Thai government agencies in a rescue operation at the factory, which was operating out of a large home complex in a residential neighbourhood. The officers attempted to call out to the workers who were locked on the upper floors of a building behind locked gates. Eventually, one worker began to climb out over the gate and a ladder was brought, to help him escape.
The man later said, “I didn’t know if it would be days or months...I now feel free.”
A total of 18 Myanmar migrant workers followed him to freedom, all of whom may be victims of forced labour and human trafficking, including two 16-year-olds – a boy and a girl.
IJM Thailand’s legal and aftercare department assisted the freed workers and Thai authorities at the local police station during interviews and processing. The migrant workers will undergo COVID-19 testing to ensure their health and will continue to receive IJM legal and aftercare support as the victim identification process continues. They are currently being cared for and supported by IJM and the government in a safe location.
“We are glad to have been a part of bringing these men, women and children to freedom and ensuring they are safe. We applaud the quick efforts of DSI and the Thai authorities to bring relief to migrant workers who are victims of abuse,” said Andrew Wasuwongse, IJM Thailand Field Office Director.
IJM Thailand has been working on cases of forced labour and labour trafficking since 2017. While primarily focused on exploitation in the fishing industry, this case marks the team’s expansion into other industries in Thailand where forced labour may be found.