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Myanmar migrants suffocate while being smuggled

BANGKOK, Thailand – Fifty-four migrant workers from Myanmar suffocated in the back of a seafood truck in southern Thailand while being smuggled to the popular resort island of Phuket, police said today.

An additional 47 workers survived the incident late Wednesday in Ranong province and flagged down police for help, police Col. Kraithong Chanthongbai said.

Police did not immediately know what jobs they were heading for, but illegal Myanmar immigrants in that region generally work in the fishing and construction industries or as maids.

Police were searching for the truck’s driver, who had fled the scene, and members of the smuggling gang they believed arranged the trip.

Kraithong blamed the driver for failing to turn on the air conditioning in the back of the truck, which normally was used to transport seafood.

The surviving workers told police they sneaked into Ranong province from Myanmar’s Victoria Point by fishing boat Wednesday night and were then packed into a small container truck for a trip to Phuket.