Thai activist: Reception and rights, the only way to combat human trafficking
by Weena Kowitwanij
Panthip Kanchanajitra, an expert in law, indicating three elements to address the immigration issue. Human rights, fighting prejudice and a path to citizenship, the only way to combat trafficking. The Thai prime minister confirms the government's commitment to finding a solution. Damage to the image and economy of the country.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Guaranteeing migrants basic human rights, fighting prejudice in the countries where they seek refuge and, through a serious process of integration, guaranteeing them the right to citizenship in the future. This is the path indicated by an expert on international law and Thai citizenship, Ms. Panthip Kanchanajitra, to resolve the migrant crisis that has exploded in recent weeks in many countries of Southeast Asia.

Thousands of people, mostly Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, along with migrant workers from Bangladesh, have been rescued in the Andaman Sea and off the coast of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. A drama heightened by the crackdown imposed by Bangkok – the real trafficking crossroads - on the trade in human lives, after the discovery of a mass grave near the border with Malaysia where dozens of Rohingya were buried.

The situation was worsened by the push-back policy adopted - and later repudiated, after a meeting between foreign ministers - from Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

Lately the (military) government in power in Thailand has taken steps to try to resolve the crisis, promoting a series of meetings at the level of regional governments and international organizations, in an attempt to find a common response.

From the crossroads of trafficking, the country now intends to be on the frontline in combatting the phenomenon according to the premier - and former army chief - gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, who participated directly in the "Day against human trafficking", which was held on June 5th.

"The problem of human trafficking - said the Prime Minister - has been occurred for a long time and it is impossible to solve at its roots.  Today is a good sign that various sectors joined together to show their intention to take care and to protect and to suppress the human trafficking seriously.  Human trafficking problem has affected human freedom and at the same time violated human rights gravely.  Moreover it lessens confidence industrial trade which hit country economy."

The Thai premier confirmed the availability of the country and its institutions to "cooperate with the countries that are the origins of the traffic", such as Bangladesh and Myanmar, with the transit nations  and "countries of destination", to protect victims "without distinction of sex, age, race." "We must address the issue quickly and seriously - he concluded - to punish traffickers in accordance with Thai laws."

On migration and citizenship, the Thai Catholic weekly The redeemer spoke to Panthip Kanchanajitra, an expert in the field, who identified three steps to resolving the problem. First of all, she explains, "we must ensure their basic human rights." They must be registered by the host country, according to the law and the children born in Thai territory must be enrolled on the registers. Second, people have to combat prejudice against these people "without citizenship". And yet, "at the appropriate time" migrants must be ensured "citizenship" after following procedure and respecting required times.

Finally, the Thai activist recalls the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which states that citizenship is one of the basic rights of the individual. "Everyone has the right to a nationality - she concludes - and no one can be deprived arbitrarily of their nationality nor be denied the right to change it."