Toronto Star

Thai officials face charges of human traffickin­g

More than 100 people, including an army general, stand accused in the scandal


BANGKOK— Thailand’s state prosecutor­s recommende­d charges against more than 100 people, including a Thai army general, in a multinatio­nal human-traffickin­g scandal that came to light after dozens of bodies were discovered in the country’s south earlier this year, a spokesman said Friday.

Ninety-one Thais, nine Burmese nationals and four Bangladesh­is face 16 charges, including human traffickin­g, partaking in a transnatio­nal crime network and assisting or bringing in aliens into the kingdom illegally, the office of the attorney general spokesman Wanchai Roujanavon­g told reporters.

“The investigat­ion showed it is a big syndicate. There were networks that brought (the migrants) from overseas into the country systematic­ally,” he said. “There were a lot of damages. Bodies were found. Senior officials were accused, as well as influentia­l figures. The office of the attorney general, therefore, treats it as a very important case.”

He said provincial prosecutor­s have pressed charges against 72 arrested suspects and were waiting to proceed with 32 others who remained at large.

The sweeping investigat­ion, in which 15 Thai state officials were implicated, came after 36 bodies, believed to be migrants from Burma and Bangladesh, were exhumed from various abandoned jungle camps near the Thai-Malaysian border in May.

The discovery has intensifie­d internatio­nal pressure on Thailand to crack down on smugglers. More than 50 people were arrested in a month, including local politician­s, government officials, police and a seniorrank­ing army officer who once oversaw human-traffickin­g issues in the country’s south. About 50 police officers in the southern provinces were removed from their posts and investigat­ed for possible involvemen­t in traffickin­g syndicates.

The 15 state officials, including Lt. Gen. Manas Kongpaen, four policemen, a powerful provincial mayor and local politician­s, will also face charges of negligence in their duty, according to the spokesman.

Human rights groups have long accused Thai authoritie­s of collusion in the traffickin­g industry, but officials have routinely denied the claims.

Wanchai said charges have not been pressed against 15 other suspects as recommende­d by the police, but additional investigat­ions have been ordered.

 ??  ?? The office of the attorney general spokesman Wanchai Roujanavon­g says an investigat­ion revealed a human-smuggling syndicate.
The office of the attorney general spokesman Wanchai Roujanavon­g says an investigat­ion revealed a human-smuggling syndicate.

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