Smug­gling ‘king­pin’ hands him­self in


BANGKOK, Thai­land: A for­mer Thai re­gional of­fi­cial ac­cused of be­ing a ma­jor peo­ple traf­fick­ing king­pin turned him­self in on Mon­day, po­lice said, as the king­dom con­tin­ues a be­lated blitz against the lu­cra­tive trade.

Pa­jjuban Aungka­chotephan, bet­ter known as Ko Tong (Big Brother Tong), had been sought by po­lice for the last week on hu­man traf­fick­ing charges.

“He sur­ren­dered to po­lice this morn­ing in Bangkok,” na­tional po­lice spokesman Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Prawut Tha­vorn­siri told AFP.

“Po­lice are now tak­ing him to the south for ques­tion­ing and more in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he added.

Thai­land be­gan a crack­down on hu­man traf­fick­ing and smug­gling fol­low­ing the dis­cov­ery of a net­work of se­cret jun­gle camps in the south and dozens of shal­low graves thought to con­tain the re­mains of Myan­mar Ro­hingya and Bangladeshi mi­grants.

Thou­sands of mi­grants were sub­se­quently aban­doned by smug­gling gangs, some in re­mote jun­gles but many more on rick­ety boats in the An­daman Sea.

Rights groups and ob­servers have long ac­cused Thai of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the po­lice and mil­i­tary, of turn­ing a blind eye to hu­man traf­fick­ing -- and even be­ing com­plicit in the grim trade.

Ko Tong was un­til re­cently an in­flu­en­tial of­fi­cial in Thai­land’s south­ern prov­ince of Satun, a re­gion long known to be a ma­jor tran­sit point for peo­ple smug­glers and traf­fick­ers.

Thai po­lice had pre­vi­ously sug­gested he might have fled to Malaysia, but Prawut said there was no ev­i­dence he had left the coun­try.

Tele­vi­sion showed pic­tures of Ko Tong, bald­ing and dressed in a white t-shirt, ap­pear­ing at a brief press con­fer­ence flanked by po­lice of­fi­cers, some of whom were armed.

It is com­mon in Thai­land for ac­cused crim­i­nals to be pre­sented to the me­dia once they are charged.

Lo­cal me­dia re­ported that he de­nied all the charges against him and said he would only tes­tify in court.

Re­gional po­lice of­fi­cial Ma­jor Gen­eral Puthichart Ekachant told AFP that 65 ar­rest war­rants have now been is­sued against peo­ple sus­pected of in­volve­ment in peo­ple traf­fick­ing or smug­gling.

So far 31 have been ar­rested or sur­ren­dered, in­clud­ing Ko Tong, he added.

RES­CUED MI­GRANTS A group of Ro­hingya mi­grants from Myan­mar waits for their meal from In­done­sian vol­un­teers at the con­fine­ment area in the fish­ing port of Kuala Langsa in Aceh prov­ince on May 18, 2015, where hun­dreds of mi­grants from Myan­mar and...

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