September 30, 2022
DHAKA – We are delighted for the families of three men presumed dead after news broke of the mass graves in Thailand in 2015. According to a report published by The Daily Star on Thursday, two photos from a prison in Bangkok, hand-delivered to families by another trafficking victim three years ago, provided the evidence of them being alive. Before that, for six long years, the three families had no indication that their loved ones were still living.
The families concerned sold their properties in 2013 to send the three men to Malaysia to earn a living in the hope of a better life. Soon, however, their dreams turned into a nightmare. Months after the men had left, their families received phone calls and heard the terrified voices of their loved ones, who informed them that they were being held captive by human traffickers and tortured. Their torturers had told them to demand Tk 2 lakh from their families in exchange for their release and safe passage to Malaysia. Having sold all their properties only a few months back, the families had no way of paying the ransom, and hence had to abandon their loved ones to fate. With no communication from them since then, and with reports of mass graves in the Thai jungle – where the men were presumably being held – the families assumed the worst.
The families recently came to Dhaka from remote areas in Maheshkhali upazila of Cox’s Bazar to submit a letter to the foreign ministry, hoping that it would reach the foreign minister and lead to their dear ones’ return. We urgently call on the foreign ministry to take all diplomatic measures to get these victims of human trafficking released from the Thai jails and have them repatriated to Bangladesh. These men and their families have suffered enough cruelty and uncertainty for nearly a decade now. And it is time for them to be finally reunited safely at home.
Additionally, according to various human rights groups in Thailand, many more Bangladeshis are currently being detained in Thai jails. And it is suspected that some of them could have been victims of human trafficking during the time when migration to Malaysia from Bangladesh was suspended. The government should use all its diplomatic prowess to find out how many more Bangladeshi trafficking victims are being wrongly incarcerated in Thailand, and look to negotiate their release and return with the Thai government.
Moreover, the government should take lessons from these cases, and ensure that the official channel for migration is made easy and simple, and take all necessary steps to ensure that Bangladeshis wishing to go abroad in search of better lives are better protected from human traffickers.