Exposed: LTTE’s Human Smuggling Ring

  • Rs. 4 million cost per immigrant “enforced”  by LTTE operatives
  • German Babu’s arrest scares human smugglers in Bangkok

By Faraz Shauketaly

A downmarket area in Bangkok, home to would be immigrants until they board a vessel Photo by Chanaka Ratnaweera / Media Colombo and The Thai registered 760-ton Macgregor type cargo ship, Harin Panich 19, renamed as the MV Sun Sea – which was used to bring 493 illegal immigrants to Canada

Canada spent US$ 25 million on illegals onboard MV Sun Sea
A major human smuggling ring has been identified by The Sunday Leader. A group of 198 persons have assembled in the Thai capital, Bangkok, awaiting vessels which will take them either to Australia or Canada. Under covert circumstances, The Sunday Leader spoke with the principal Thai coordinator for the illegal operation, Thirunawukarasu Balachandran, also known in LTTE circles as “Uganda Bala” who confirmed various details, including giving out the location where some of these immigrants are housed awaiting the vessel.
In a downmarket area of the bustling Thai capital, not far off a section of Silom Road, on Soi 47, Uganda Bala receives his “clients” – in the majority, Tamil speaking citizens of Sri Lanka, looking to leave these shores in search of pastures greener than they are in, Jaffna, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and even Colombo.
Duped into believing that we had four brothers wishing to emigrate, Bala asked The Sunday Leader to send “our brothers” to him, gave us directions to the accommodation and spelled out the financial plan he has drawn up: US$ 5,000 in Colombo, in exchange for which they arranged the ticket and the Thai visa. A further US$ 5,000 would have to be paid once the immigrant arrived in Bangkok. This was done by the simple expediency of depositing rupees in a Commercial Bank account (the account details are also known to The Sunday Leader) and using the international card issued by them, to withdraw funds from an ATM in Bangkok.
Until the vessel arrived, he would “care” for the immigrants by giving them food and shelter. They would, however, have to be confined indoors – no one was to leave to go out so much as for a walk, as they did not wish to arouse the Thai authorities – especially after a fiasco last year and the arrest in Bangkok of yet another human smuggler, known as “German Babu” (Real name Nadesan Jeeyananthan) just last month.
The final part of the deal requires a payment of US$ 20,000. This has to be “guaranteed” by a relative anywhere in Europe, Canada, Australia or the United States even – in essence, anywhere in the West where money was available and can be moved around easily. The immigrant is not allowed to “board” until Uganda Bala gets confirmation from his “boys” on the ground that they have received the necessary assurances.
These are the LTTE enforcers and collectors located all around the world, from the backstreets of Tooting, South West London to the immigrant areas of Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Chicago, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur and of course, Thailand. These are the very collectors, who care little for the niceties of the various laws in mainland North America, Europe and Australia – where the LTTE remains a banned organisation.
In August last year, the Thai authorities arrested a group of 20 Sri Lankans in Bangkok –  for immigration offences. All were deported to Sri Lanka. Most of them had, by then, parted with approximately Rs. 3 million.
Take the story of “Sukumar” for instance. All of 22-years and hailing from Vavuniya, his family made contact with Uganda Bala’s agent in little-Jaffna or more properly, Wellawatte. His aunt paid an initial Rs. 500,000. The process began in earnest – he then paid a further USD 6,000 bringing his total payment to a little more than USD 10,500. Visa obtained, Sukumar and another youth from Jaffna, were aboard a SriLankan Airlines flight to Thailand – and, they hoped, Australia or Canada.
His new found friend, the youth on the same flight, we call him “Jeya,” paid Bala the sum of US$ 7,000 soon after arrival in Bangkok. A few days later, after the monies were deposited into an account in Colombo, a further US$ 3,000 was handed over.
Weeks went past and the tourist visas issued to the duo – as well as 18 others – had expired. On a short walk-about, the apartment block they were staying in was raided by the Thai Police and Immigration, resulting in the arrest of 20 immigrants. They were all deported to Sri Lanka as over-stayers.
In an astounding turn of events, Sukumar told us that he was now planning on trying his luck again! Uganda Bala had apparently offered him a “discount” now that he had already lost Rs. 1 million. Clearly if authorities in Canada and Australia were aware of the amount of monies changing hands, these immigrants would have a hard time convincing those authorities of their bona fides as “poor, suffering citizens of the North” when in fact they appear to have the financial resources to pay vast sums of money to migrate to a developed country. The Tamil Tigers were defeated in May 2009, and a recent UN report states Tamils need no longer be presumed to be fleeing imminent harm in Sri Lanka. In Canada, in October, the Conservative government tabled new legislation aimed at punishing anyone who smuggles illegal migrants to Canada.
Currently an area of Bangkok, a location known to The Sunday Leader, is home to some 198 would-be immigrants. The figure grows daily while Uganda Bala searches for a suitable vessel on which to transport his ‘clients.’ A favourite haunt of the key personnel in the operation is the “New Madras” restaurant off Silom Road, which is run by a former native of Batticaloa, known as “Sunderam” and his Thai wife. The would-be immigrants, are ‘taken care of’ by another LTTE sympathizer, Seelan. He is in fact a de-facto tour guide, taking the immigrants to internet cafes, banks, ATMs and generally keeping them in high spirits whilst the interminable wait goes on.
This particular case is just one of many instances linking the banned LTTE to human smuggling. Their activities have aroused the interests of government officials in Switzerland, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand. Taking advantage of rather lax policing in terms of immigration violation enforcement, the LTTE has created in Thailand a fertile playground on which they continue to make millions of dollars. In the past, the monies collected from relatives of those left behind in Sri Lanka’s former troubled areas, funded the LTTE military machine, which in turn brought even more misery to the people of those Northern and North Eastern parts of Sri Lanka.
Post-war, the reality is almost the same: monies continue to be collected, preying on the misery of a population who have seen the majority of their relatives move abroad. Playing on the hopes and aspirations of the people who dream of better economic prospects, the like of Uganda Bala and his cohorts including other agents in Bangkok like Seeni Thavarajah, continue to live outside of law enforcement agencies and the clutches of Sri Lanka’s intelligence and police agencies.
Recently released figures by the Canadian government goes some way towards an insight as to how worrisome human smuggling has become to some countries; the MV Sun Sea which left Thailand in May 2010 and was intercepted by the Canadians in August 2010, cost the Canadian government US$ 25 million. The bulk of the money was spent by the Canada Border Services Agency, whose bill for this event alone was set at US$ 22 million; the Canadian Police authority, the RCMP, spent US$ 2.1 million and the balance US$ 900,000 was allocated to the Immigration and Refugee Board – who would have had to process the 493 Sri Lankan Tamils who arrived onboard the MV Sun Sea. The Canadian government also allocated an additional US$ 6 million to investigate and disrupt human smuggling networks in South Asia.
Of great concern to Immigration authorities throughout the so-called ‘Western’ world, is the phenomenally large amounts paid by these illegal immigrants, who all claim to suffer various forms of discrimination and victimization at the hands of government agencies in Sri Lanka. The end of the war against terror in Sri Lanka has brought with it a further complication to the tide of asylum seekers who cannot now claim to be running away from the war; however, with a weak international PR and media communications system the Sri Lankan government continues to loose ground in the media war of words and strategies to the LTTE-leaning diaspora overseas, helping the claims of ill-treatment made by illegal immigrants – with or without merit but certainly a useful ally in any application for asylum.
(faraz@thesundayleader.lk)

25 Comments for “Exposed: LTTE’s Human Smuggling Ring”

  1. NeutralTamil

    The real poor people who r badly effected by war , dont have money to buy milk powder for their kids, u can see how people in the war affected area fighting for dry rations. all these illegal immigrants are millionaires of sri lanka. they paying 5million Rs to go abroad n clain that they r affected by war. Westen countries should stop all this illegal immigrants n all that n when they come in on a ship, put them in canadian navy ship n send them to sri lanka, where all of them should be sent to jail for causing deformational to sri lanka’s name. we r known as refugee country, such a shame

  2. dear sir,
    do u think people under take such immigrations for no purpose? untold misery in the tamils areas is ongoing without end in sight. that is the reason people undertake these journeys. whole families put together what lil they have to make this happen. with the like of merv silvan, karuana, pillyan and kp in the arms of gosl not to mention devanda what do u expect to happen. ongoing colonization by gosl of the tamil areas will only accelerate these activities. all sinhalese and tamil sympathizeers of the genocide are blind to these realities. god save all u so – called buddhists.

    • kapila bandara

      God save us from “so-called Buddhists?”

      Was that a incendiary remark aimed at Buddhists? Let talk about Hindu human bombs and Hindu machete murderers.
      May God save us from them…

      Well, Well. Christians must be looking after you well in foreign lands, then.

  3. kudu

    sunday leader when you do a story .make sure you cover the whole story .do you seriously think the people fleeing this country are leaving for the sole purpose of seeking greener pastures. Is that why lasanthas family are all out of this country.These people who are risking their lives and their savings for sure are looking for a better life for them and for their children , all of them have relatives living around the world who have been supporting them financially for the entire period of the war and are helping them now to flee .Unlike the wickramatungas who had help from ambassadors who issued them visas in the middle of the night to flee .
    according to your figures the canadian government spent 25 million only 900.000 on the refugee board i guess it went for their salaries . boy what an event .
    candian government spent 22 million to the border patrol for what I guess for laying out a red carpet for the refugees oh no for doing an excellent job of detecting the ship after it arrived in canada
    still you have done a good job on exposing the human traffickers .but how come you have not gone further by exposing the other agents in the north ,east and in colombo the recruiters publicly running around looking for victims to send out to the green pastures or streets paved with gold like you describe. you know who these people are and what their political affiliations are .
    respect to lasantha

  4. xavier

    like the canadian government doesnt know.hahaha.its easier to come as a refugee than as a skilled worker.come on a boat and claim asylum.easiest place in the world is canada.why have an immigration website.come as a refugee,come to canada.this will keep on happenin.recently a chinese came disguised,claimed asylum.refugees all over the world come to canada.

    • Oscar Schindler

      Lucky Canada, these are amongst the most resourceful people on the planet, unlike us lazy former British colonies. This is the Asian century, get used to it!

  5. Reno

    While Tamil are transported illegally, Sinhalese continue to fly by air from under developed third world SL to developed countires for economic reasons.

  6. higannaa

    why no no one going to tamilnadu 4 assylum any more??

  7. Sangeetha

    Most of those in the south of sri Lanka do not know the manner in which the north is being taken over by the State for investments. Tamils not only feel a conquered people in these areas but economically lifelines are being strangled. Anyone who has the courage to speak is categorized as a terrorist sympathizer, and discredited or arrested. Provide Tamils with equal development and pride of place in the nation and they will not have the need to flee in such desperate ways to other countries. Those who live in the west know how hard it is to be new immigrants without the comfort of the beloved networks of home. Many Tamils in Toronto live much poorer lives that the ones they left behind in Sri Lanka. Think clearly, Has the Sri Lankan Nation thought of reconciliation of the Tamils into the nation even now? There is triumph of victory over them and unbridled Sinhala Nationalism that extends itself to economic and political spheres. What is left for the Tamils in Sri Lanka?

  8. San

    This is rubbish, any one on this earth has a freedom to go to any country. Why Sunday Leader make a big fuss on this.

    • Oscar Schindler

      Good call San, all these freedom loving democracies become a little nervous when people talk about freedom for EVERYONE. Witness the supposedly anti-government tea party reaction to Wikkileaks. American republican wimps!

  9. Bruz

    WOW ! Very sensational article. So LTTE is still active. People thought they were all eradicated 100 % , victory celebrated with kiri buth & kavun long time ago.
    What is this surprise about LTTE operating in Thailand & lalaland ?
    Can’t beleive this people paying so much so easily either. I don’t think that they are abducting people & taking ransom to pay all this kind of money. So the columnist say that these guys are fleeing the country for greener pastures ? No problem, discrimination,arrest,abduction,murder,kidnapping,harassment by forces, nothing is happenning and everything is nice & peaceful in North or even east ?
    Nice story. I can’t beleive this nice story is coming from Sunday Leader columnist.
    OK, go ahead, create any story, & make money who cares anyway.You won’t know anything unless & until you are at the receiving end.

  10. Saleem Sinai

    Great article! Why do the Sri Lankan media and politicians keep on harping on the issues of the Tigers and not try and address the real issues facing the Tamil population in Sri Lanka. Why doesn’t the paper try and find out why these people are going to such lengths to leave the country and what afflicts our beautiful country. No one, including the papers and politicians wants to seem to have serious discussion about the problems in our country. We’ll blame all ills on the Tigers.

  11. sha

    They say the Ltte is gone but what ever illegal happen it is done by LTTE. I really don’t understand the theory. May be Lasantha was killed by LTTE and Prageeth was abducted by LTTE. “LTTE military machine, which in turn brought even more misery to the people of those Northern and North Eastern parts of Sri Lanka” does the writer mean now that LTTE is defeated and the people have been liberated all of them are living in heaven. Don’t criticise the process but question why it is happening ? The truth is at present any Srilankan if he she gets a chance to go to a foreign country by some means he/she will not hesitate to do so. Even “NeutralTamil” tamil is no exception

    • Dear Sha,
      You are correct. Also the trials and tribulations which some tamils labelled as LTTE, compel them to go away to some other country.
      Those with means and opportunities – even non-tamils – wish to go and live in another country if at all possible.
      The lankan ambassador in Ottawa said on BBC “They are criminals” when asked about the Sun Sea migrants/refugees – without any reason whatsoever. This hysterical outburst shocked many.
      There are people who have taken up the task of helping such wouldbe migrants for a fee. This “smuggling” of people is strictly “business” and very profitable too. Such ‘smuggling’ of people – from many countries – apart from sri lanka – has been going on for decades.
      But, when lankan tamils are involved, the whole event is labelled as an “LTTE” operation. These “smugglers” couldnt care less about the LTTE.
      They are only intent on lining their pockets.

  12. Gangdhi

    Tamil terrorists are now charging for migration to the West. In the eighties and nineties it was all paid by the Indians. Around 300,000 went to Canada, 30,000 to Australia and so on. The only condition was they have to contribute the the terroris cause and they stlll do.

  13. Gangdhi

    Tamils in Ceylon claim that they are discriminated. How come they have so much money to pay Bala and others.

  14. meeya

    hahaha. so all that Buddhists do is screwing up Tamils. same old boohoo. you guys are posting such comments on those forums just to make sure that foreigners read them. of course anybody will leave a third world country for Canada or at least Australia. bu Sinhalese won’t boohoo about how Tamils killed innocent Sinhalese including children’ and pregnant women and get asylum. well what can we expect form you people after all.

  15. dagobert

    Jaya Wewa…. May they smuggle more Tamils to Canada to give them a taste of Greener Pasturers. at the expence of gullible Canadians who are licking upto them for elecdtoral votes.

  16. Colombage

    Old story and it is well known. 90% of the so called Tamil Diaspora in countries like Canada, Norway, UK , Australia and other European countries use the same method and the “Bogus Refugee” ruse. Tamil diaspora nothing but a well organized under criminal leadership first established by Piribhakaran, the dead terrorist leader to collect money for his campaign of destruction and killing fieldsin Sri Lanka that he waged for 30 years. The LTTE criminal gang including Rudrakumar and KP are flourishing under different ruses sponsored by different parties. It is unfortunate that GOSL is also have become entangled through KP in this gagster activities.Every Tamil lands in Canada denies the Canadian Foriegn Aids and Grants for development in Sri Lanka. It is obnoxious and outright filthy to watch that the GOSL is inviting TAMIL DIASPORA or better known as Sri Lankan TAMIL Gansters and Thieves come to Sri Lanka again to develop the country. It reminds me the episode of “TROJAN HORSE”. We the genuine sons and daughters will have to pay for this ill-concieved or the mad folly of the present government.

  17. Build a Temple. Gods there are “the People” who helped these Tamils to reach a country where there is no threat for their life. Tamils, time to time were assaulted, robbed of their belongings and murdered. This Government pre-planned a genocide on the Tamils shutting out witnesses. Is it OK to get rid of a race which had all the rights to live in their own place? When some of these people escaped the killing and reached another country for their life, we bring out all sorts of stories against these innocent people. Killing people is buddha Dharma? I don’t think so. The other countries now know that the Government of this country has cheated the whole world. To make that version true this government is not allowing the UN committe to come to Sri Lanka.

  18. Kiri Gamarala

    Well. From 1500 AD to 1948 AD the Europeans came to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) without visas and stole our wealth to enrich themselves in their own countries. Now they brand us as criminals when we try to do the same thing. In fact we are co-owners of their greener pastures and we hav all the right to go there enjoy profits.

    To keep us confined to our own country they dole out “grants” from time to time and take nearly 80% of the grant through their consultants and contractors and vendors. When they do not have enough money (after 2008 global financial crisis) they use war crimes and HR violations and World TRade Organization to compel us to beg. Even the so called Commonwealth of GB do not have any wealth in common as Dr. Mahathir of Malaysia said and we have to beg to get anything from the “wealth” which is supposed to be common.

    The human smugglers operating from Thailand are doing business and they are not bothered about the ethnicity of people as long as the “fee” for the “journey” is paid. Considering the history and our co-ownership of greener pastures developed with our wealth stolen by those who came to our country without visas, I do not hesitate to call those who are engaged in providing “safe passage” to greener pastures doing a great service.

  19. SIR LOKKA

    If these people want to leave let them do so: let them go and see just how greener the grass is there and let them leave this country to us, the people who remain behind, the real patriots of this country. These emigrants are not refugees fleeing from fear of persecution they are cowards who do not want to stay and fight an economic war and raise Sri Lanka out of its abyss. That is the problem. The LTTE messed it up for ALL Sri Lanka. Now some of these former LTTE supporters who are akin to the “losing side supporters” are leaving in droves putting ALL Sri Lanka to shame in the eyes of the outside world. They are therefore traitors. and yes, that is a wonderful word made famous in Sri Lanka by our DS Gothabya Rajapaksa. I am proud that he made that statement in the open. Basically if they wanna go, let em go. Lets hope they dont ever get homsick and come back.

  20. Ranil

    Don’t really think its worth me adding my opinion to this, i just want to say, great research & work Sunday Leader & Mr Faraz, keep it up. Long live free press

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