The Irrawaddy News Magazine [Covering Burma and Southeast Asia]

Student’s Murder Leads to Migrant Roundup
By LAWI WENG Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hundreds of Burmese migrants have been arrested in and around Chiang Mai as a result of an investigation that has led to the arrests of two Burmese migrant workers in connection with the rape and murder of a Mae Jo University student.

Police arrested a 22-year-old Burmese man, named Chai, earlier this week. A second Burmese man, named Nui, was arrested on Thursday.

The crackdown began following the murder of a 22-year-old student who was a business major at the university. She was found dead in her dormitory room on Sunday. Police said she had been raped and murdered on Saturday.

The police roundup took place in different locations where Burmese migrants, legal and illegal, work and live, said Thai human rights groups.

A member of the Thai Human Rights and Development Foundation, based in Chiang Mai, said the roundup may have been prompted by a letter written by Mae Jo university students who urged authorities to take more aggressive action to crackdown on illegal Burmese migrants.

Some students have called for authorities to demolish camps where many Burmese migrants live near the university. 

An unknown number of Burmese who live near the university were arrested on Wednesday.

“It’s a very dangerous time for Burmese migrants now,” said Jackie Pollock, a founding member of the Chiang Mai-based Migrant Assistance Program (MAP).

“They are scapegoats of the anger. It is not logical to turn anger against a whole nationality, because it is only two men [who are suspects].

Police also carried out raids on Thai restaurants in Chiang Mai on Wednesday, where many Burmese migrants work.

According to a source who works with Burmese migrants in Chiang Mai, the police have scheduled a meeting with apartment owners and managers around the university in San Sai District to inquire about illegal migrant residents. 

Police also told some employers that migrant worker camps will be checked.

One source said that migrants who live in camps in San Sai and San Kampang districts were told by some employers to disappear from the camps for a few days, and many migrants have slept in the jungle at night.

It’s estimated that 80,000 Burmese migrants, the majority Shan, work, legally and illegally, in the Chiang Mai area.

Copyright © 2008 Irrawaddy Publishing Group |