New ar­rests in Thai hu­man traf­fick­ing probe

Mizzima Business Weekly - - AFFAIRS // NEWS -

Twenty-two peo­ple have been ar­rested in Thai­land for prof­it­ing from hu­man traf­fick­ing, po­lice said Thurs­day, part of an on­go­ing crack­down that sparked a re­gional mi­grant cri­sis ear­lier this year.

Ma­jor-Gen­eral Paween Pongsirin, a se­nior po­lice com­man­der in the coun­try’s south, said 26 new ar­rest war­rants had been is­sued for sus­pects ac­cused of trad­ing in hu­mans and money laun­der­ing.

Of the 26, 12 had al­ready been ar­rested, he told AFP.

A fur­ther 16 ar­rests war­rants have been is­sued solely for money laun­der­ing charges re­lated to traf­fick­ing, of whom 10 had been de­tained, he added, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of war­rants is­sued since the cur­rent crack­down be­gan to 145.

“No state of­fi­cials are in­volved in this batch,” he added.

Thai­land has long been ac­cused of ig­nor­ing of­fi­cial com- plic­ity in the multi-mil­lion dol­lar traf­fick­ing trade, which had un­til re­cent months flour­ished through its south­ern prov­inces and onto Malaysia -- the de­sired des­ti­na­tion of Myan­mar’s per­se­cuted Ro­hingya Mus­lim mi­nor­ity.

But a crack­down in May led to the un­rav­el­ling of vast peo­ple-smug­gling net­works with thou­sands of mi­grants aban­doned in open wa­ters and jun­gle camps by traf­fick­ers, a cri­sis that even­tu­ally forced a South­east Asia-wide re­sponse.

In July Thai pros­e­cu­tors an­nounced that 72 peo­ple have been in­dicted.

Among the sus­pects is Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Manas Kong­pan, charged with be­ing a ma­jor smug­gling king­pin in the lu­cra­tive trade.

His al­leged in­volve­ment raises awk­ward ques­tions for junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who has re­peat­edly jus­ti­fied his coup last year as a much-needed an­ti­dote to graft that he says flour­ished un­der a se­ries of elected civil­ian gov­ern­ments.

Manas was pro­moted while Prayut was army chief.

He re­mains the only mil­i­tary of­fi­cer charged with com­plic­ity in peo­ple smug­gling, an is­sue that has raised eye­brows among rights groups who say it is un­likely such an in­flu­en­tial of­fi­cer would have acted alone.

Last month -- for the sec­ond year in a row -- Thai­land was placed by the United State at the bot­tom tier of its rank­ing of coun­tries fail­ing to tackle hu­man traf­fick­ing along­side na­tions like Iran, Libya, North Korea and Syria.

The cur­rent crack­down came af­ter the re­port­ing pe­riod of the State Depart­ment’s latest “Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons” re­port ended and Prayut has ex­pressed hopes his coun­try will be up­graded next year.


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