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06BANGKOK1117 BURMESE MIGRANT LABORER MURDER TRIAL IN THAILAND CONTINUES

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“54144”,”2/24/2006 8:28″,”06BANGKOK1117″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,

“UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,””,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 001117

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

STATE FOR G/TIP, EAP/MLS, DRL/IL, DRL/PHD

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR FOR ILAB – MITTELHAUSER AND SASSER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: KWMN, KCRM, ELAB, PHUM, KJUS, TH

SUBJECT: BURMESE MIGRANT LABORER MURDER TRIAL IN THAILAND CONTINUES

 

1. (SBU) Summary. The next trial hearing in the death of Ma Suu, a

17-year-old Burmese migrant worker who was allegedly murdered by her

employer, will be on March 8-9, 2006. Ma Suu left Burma to seek

work in Thailand, and found a job as a domestic servant for a

wealthy Thai military officer in 2001. While it remains unclear

whether Ma Suu was originally trafficked across the border, her

ensuing employment situation clearly amounts to a trafficking case.

Held against her will in an abusive employment situation, she

escaped and notified police, only to be returned to her employer and

eventually killed. She died on July 16, 2002 from extensive

beatings and acid burns. The public prosecutor, with help from the

Thai Law Society, is seeking cooperation from key witnesses, but

fear of retribution — and the defendant\’s high ranking military

status — has caused some to hesitate in cooperating. End Summary.

 

2. (U) Representatives from the Thai Law Society updated Emboffs on

February 10 about Ma Suu\’s murder trial. On March 8, 2006, the

trial will resume with the testimony of five witnesses and four

police officers. The defendants, Mr. Suchat Akapibul and his wife

Yawadee, are accused of murdering the 17-year-old Burmese domestic

employee who died of extensive acid burns and beatings on July 16,

2002. Suchat is a military officer, whose rank is equivalent to Air

Force colonel. Yuwadee was arrested and jailed from July 7-13,

2002, and released on the same day that Suchat presented himself to

the authorities. He was subsequently released on bail, and has not

yet entered a plea.

 

—————

CASE BACKGROUND

—————

 

3. (U) A Burmese citizen of Mon ethnicity, the then 17-year-old Ma

Suu lived in Burma with her grandmother and two younger siblings,

her parents being deceased. She crossed into Thailand in 2001 at

the Mae Sot border town searching for income, and found work,

through an employment agent, as a domestic worker for the Akapibul

family, who own a furniture manufacturing business in Suratthani,

Lopburi province.

 

4. (U) According to the Thai Law Society, Ma Suu\’s employers accused

her of stealing a gun, necklace, mobile phone, watch, ring, and more

than 30,000 baht (USD 750) at the end of June 2002. Ma Suu denied

the accusation and was then allegedly locked in a room and beaten

for the next five days by Suchat, his son, and some soldiers working

for Suchat. Another employee stated that a PVC pipe broke into two

pieces because of the beatings.

 

5. (SBU) Ma Suu escaped on the fifth day and fled to a nearby field,

where a woman found her, gave her refuge, and brought her to the

local police station two days later. The police contacted Suchat\’s

father to inform him of Ma Suu\’s whereabouts, and he then brought Ma

Suu back to Suchat\’s house. The police accompanied them to inspect

the home, and, after hearing more accusations of the theft, jailed

Ma Suu for one night. Suchat requested that Ma Suu return to the

house the following morning, on the assurance that he would deport

Ma Suu back to Mae Sot. The police agreed. (Note: The Law Society

blames Thai deference to authority for this decision, as the police

presumably felt obliged to return Ma Suu to her employer given his

military rank — despite indications that he was responsible for her

beatings. End note.)

 

6. (U) Instead of returning Ma Suu to Mae Sot, Suchat allegedly

proceeded to beat her again. Suchat and his wife then, according to

court papers, hired a self-professed \”medium\”, or soothsayer, to

interview Ma Suu and divine the truth about the alleged thefts.

When the medium proclaimed Ma Suu guilty, Suchat allegedly set her

on fire and poured acid over her. Ma Suu was later found near a

road and taken to Uthai Thani hospital with burns covering more than

50 percent of her body. She died on July 16, 2002 after five days

in a coma. Prior to her death, she gave a taped statement to a

journalist recounting her ordeal, and her injuries were

photographed.

 

7. (U) Jurisdiction for the case spans three provinces: Lopburi,

where Maa Suu worked; Uthai Thani, where Maa Suu was found

unconscious in the woods and where she eventually died; and Nakhon

Sawan, where Maa Suu spent part of her hospitalization.

 

————–

WHO WILL HELP?

————–

 

8. (U) Ma Suu\’s case was reported in The Nation, a Thai

English-languagee newspaper, on July 8, 2002, prompting a number of

NGO representatives to visit her in the hospital. A public attorney

is prosecuting the case, with help from The Thai Law Society, The

Asian Human Rights Commission based in Hong Kong, Amnesty

International, Human Rights Watch, and the American Center for

International Labor Solidarity (ACILS). The Law Society noted that

the public prosecutor in this case is being extremely proactive,

perhaps due to the international attention this case has attracted.

 

9. (SBU) The Law Society reports that neither the police, nor the

hospitals, nor the Burmese Embassy have been cooperative or

proactive in the investigation. Hospitals refuse to release any

records to anyone but family members, and lawyers have been unable

to reach Ma Suu\’s family. The police state that they have found no

evidence related to the murder, and that Suchat and Yuwadee deny

having employed Ma Suu. It is unclear whether Suchat has been

suspended by the military, or if he is still working. (The Thai Law

Society claims he is still employed and stationed at Don Muang

International Airport, but post has not been able to verify this.)

 

—————————————

COOCOO FOR KO KO — AND OTHER WITNESSES

—————————————

 

10. (SBU) The Law Society has been hoping for the testimony of a

Burmese radio journalist, Thin Ko Ko, who visited Ma Suu in the

hospital and recorded her statement the day before she died. Ko Ko,

who has worked as a stringer for the Voice of America (VOA),

recorded statements from Ma Suu that match the testimony of five

Burmese witnesses. Ko Ko recently returned to the US, but his

testimony has been requested by prosecutors to certify the

authenticity of the tape. According to the Law Society, Ko Ko had

been reluctant to testify out of concerns for his safety, despite

letters from the Uthai Thani Police offering security. In a

February 24 e-mail to Econoff, Ko Ko stated that he would not be

returning to Thailand for the March 8 trial hearing given the \”short

notice\” of the request. (Note: The Law Society told Emboffs that

they had been requesting his testimony since Summer 2004. End

Note.) Ko Ko has, however, agreed to a second option — less

desirable to prosecutors — to send a notarized statement to Post,

which would then deliver it to the prosecution.

 

11. (U) Prosecutors are counting on the testimony of a second

important witness, Kamron Parnikorn, who is believed to be the only

witness to Ma Suu\’s burning. He has admitted to participating in

the beating of Ma Suu, but claimed that it was on orders from

Suchat. He has cooperated with prosecutors in the case against

Suchat and has not been charged. The Law Society believes that he

will appear at the March 8-9 hearing. Other prominent witnesses

include the five Burmese witnesses whose testimony, given during a

pre-trial period in the summer of 2004, matches that of Ko Ko\’s

recording. They stated that they were employed in the defendants\’

household at the same time as Ma Suu. These witnesses were under

the care of the police until they gave their statements, and are now

under the care of new employers.

 

—————————————-

EXTREME EXAMPLE OF A MUCH LARGER PROBLEM

—————————————-

 

12. (U) Ma Suu\’s death is an extreme example of the helplessless

often faced by illegal Burmese migrant workers who are unable to

turn to authorities for assistance. Female domestic workers are

particularly vulnerable to abuse because they are isolated in

individual homes, and Thai labor regulations do not provide coverage

for domestic workers, regardless of nationality.

 

13. (U) The Institute for Population and Social Research (IPSR)

conducted a survey in 2002-3 of 528 Burmese domestic workers in

northern Thailand, nearly all of them women, most young and

unmarried. Most of the workers found their employment through an

agent, with none of them knowing what the work conditions would be

until arriving at their employers\’ house. Thirty-two percent

received 1000 baht (USD 25) or less per month, and only 15 percent

received more than 3000 baht (75 USD) per month. Eighty percent

worked more than 12 hours per day, many of whom worked seven days a

week. Two-thirds cared for a child or elderly person, and were

expected to be available at all hours.

 

14. (U) As most workers were not registered with the government,

they were vulnerable to threats from the Thai police. Of the 43

percent who reported encountering the police, 49 percent said they

had been asked for money and 29 percent said they had been

threatened with deportation. Half of the workers reported being

threatened by their employer, and 1 in 10 physically abused. Eight

percent reported being subjected to sexual advances, with 1.3

percent being victims of rape. Only 43 percent were allowed to

leave the house, making access to health care (which 79 percent had

to pay for on their own) difficult.

 

15. (U) Comment: Ma Suu\’s death is an extreme and rare example, but

highlights the continuing vulnerability of migrant domestic workers

in Thailand. Her confinement, severe abuse at the hands of her

employer, and subsequent forced return to her employer after her

escape, qualifies her as a trafficking victim. There is so far no

indication that the police officers who returned Ma Suu to her

employer will face any charges or disciplinary action, but NGOs have

lauded the public prosecutors\’ office for their commitment to this

case. Post continues to follow this case closely and will send an

observer to the March 8-9 hearing. End Comment.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:07 am

Posted in Burma, Unclassified

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