Public Statement Review the imposition of Martial Law to control migrant workers In tourist attractions of Surat Thani

On 30 October 2014[1], the Public Relations Department reported results of the meeting between Governor of Surat Thani and security agencies which plan to enforce stringent security measures to protect tourists in Koh Samui, Koh Pa-ngan and Koh Tao in the wake of the murder of two British tourists on Koh Tao on 15 September 2014. It was said that migrant workers Koh Samui, Koh Pa-ngan and Koh Tao shall be subject to control and disallowed to associate with any tourist after 10.00pm. The Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) would like to share our concern regarding the use of such measure as follows;

1. Crime that has taken place in Koh Samui, Koh Pa-ngan and Koh Tao is not dissimilar to other criminal acts that have also taken place in other parts of the country. They could be committed by any individuals, not limited just to migrant workers. The malicious acts can be committed by any perpetrators who exist in all society and ethnic groups and everywhere. The plan to impose measures and prohibitions or restriction of rights invoking Martial Law exclusively against migrant workers including banning them from leaving their residences after 10.00pm indicates a stereotypical attitude of the authorities that migrant workers tend to commit crime. It is tantamount to discriminating against them based on their racial profile, which is not only a breach to the Constitution, but also international obligations which Thailand is obliged to follow including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). It will eventually lead to social unrest and affect relations with neighboring countries.

2. That the authorities are about to impose restrictions exclusively on migrant workers invoking the murder of two British tourists in Ko Tao in last September shows how they have already assumed that the alleged offenders, the two migrant workers, are the real culprits in this case. Otherwise, it is an attempt to mislead society even though the investigation by police officials has been questioned by concerned people including the damaged parties, the alleged offenders and international community.  Such attitude of the officials has led to their flouting the rule of law by ignoring the presumed innocence principle.

3. Various measures can be meted out to deter criminal acts without having to resort to special law such as Martial Law and discriminatory measure against migrant workers. For example, an attempt can be made to reduce the number of entertainment parlors, the suppression of the power of influential persons, etc. Most importantly, law enforcement officers, particularly, the police have to cooperate and work under supervision of the administrative agencies. They are supposed to perform their duties honestly with integrity and with no corruption. No collusion should be made with local mafia and they should not fear any influential groups. They have to perform their duties professionally to garner trust from people and to cooperate with the authorities to provide for public order and crime suppression.

4.  The state should not promote tourism by allowing more entertainment parlors to spring up without considering their impact on local morals, culture, the environment and society. They should not just focus on bringing in revenue from foreign tourists which benefits only a handful of people at the vast expense of people all over the country as we are losing our decent culture and tradition, our good environment and the rising crime.

HRDF would like to urge the government and the Surat Thani authorities to review the plan to exclusively impose restriction on the rights of migrant workers including the prohibition that bars migrant workers from leaving their residences after 10.00pm.

Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)

4 November 2014

For more information, please contact

Ms.Preeda Tongchumnum, Assistant to secretary general 089 459 0212, 02 277 6882