Trafficker abandons 106 illegal migrants stuffed inside truck in Thailand

Police discovered 106 illegal migrants crammed into a truck in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, western Thailand, yesterday. The driver was nowhere to be found.

A concerned forklift driver rang officers at Bang Saphan Police Station to say that he believed that a “suspicious” vehicle parked on the side of Petchkasem Road was carrying illegal immigrants.

Police arrived to find a six-wheel truck, about 20 metres in size, with a Bangkok registration plate. The truck driver was not there.

A sticker on the back of the truck said “Music Home Instruments,” but police heard voices.

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Police opened the back doors to find 106 Burmese and Rohingya people stacked on top of each other in the hot, unventilated truck. There were 75 males and 31 females, including 21 children under 15 years old.

All of the migrants were taken to Bang Saphan Police Station and then to Prachuap Khiri Khan Immigration Office to coordinate their return home.

The forklift driver told the police that he was contacted by the truck’s driver, who told him that the truck encountered a problem and needed to be lifted and taken to Lang Suan district in Chumphon province.

The forklift driver arrived at the scene and was preparing to lift the truck when he heard something unusual – people’s voices.

He called Bang Saphan Police Station right away. However, at some point, before the police arrived, the truck driver fled the scene.

Upon questioning, the migrants told police that they entered Thailand via the border with Myanmar in Tak province.

A trafficker in Myanmar arranged to have the Thai truck driver drive them through Thailand and into Malaysia, where they planned to work.

Police are still trying to track down and prosecute the driver.

The dangers of packing humans into the back of a lorry, like cargo, was proven on October 25, 2004, in the Tak Bai district of Narathiwat province.

That day, around 1,500 people gathered outside Tak Bai Police Station for a demonstration to protest the detention of six men.

When the demonstrators tried to enter the station, police responded with tear gas and water cannons. Then, police fired into the crowd killing seven people.

Almost 1300 people were detained and ordered to strip and crawl to nearby trucks which would transport them to an army camp in Pattani province.

The drive took five hours. When police opened the trucks, they found that 78 people had died from suffocation.

No army officials were ever prosecuted or held accountable for the tragedy.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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