New Criminal Court division set up to tackle human trafficking crimes

TF Jun 15_1Thailand is setting up a new division within the Criminal Court solely to handle human trafficking cases as police announced they will conclude their investigation into human trafficking gangs and forward their report to the attorney general by the end of this month.

The new criminal court division, a measure that had been considered earlier, is the latest step the government has taken in its broad-based campaign to put an end to human trafficking. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has made fighting of human trafficking a top priority of his administration and has ordered all government agencies to work more closely together and give cooperation to the effort or face the consequences.

Prior to the establishment of the new criminal court division, the government has been pushing for police, prosecutors and the courts to streamline their processes of investigation and prosecution.

Judges at the Criminal Court said that they are adopting a policy of concluding all criminal trafficking cases within six months of the cases reaching the court. Some cases may require and extension, but verdicts must be reached and cases finalized within one year at the most. Delays in handling cases allow traffickers and their accomplices to undermine the efforts of prosecutors.

Among other measures the government has taken in relation to the justice system and trafficking cases have been to provide better protections for victims, witnesses and whistle blowers. Speeding up cases will also better serve victims, any of which are foreigners from neighboring countries who wish to return home. A spokesman for the judiciary said that the announcement of the establishment of the human trafficking division of the court was made recently in the Royal Gazette. Two other new divisions were also established, one dealing with corrupt state officials and the other with drug trafficking cases.

Police also made strong progress in identifying and arresting several members of transnational trafficking gangs, including the arrest of a three-star Army general, police officers and several local politicians in the southern areas.

“We will send these cases to the attorney general by the end of June. Those who haven’t yet been arrested can go straight to trial because we will hand over the names of those suspects too,’’ said national Police Chief Gen. Somyot Pumpanmuang.

Although Thailand had been downgraded to the lowest ranking in the United States Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report last year, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Bangkok recently praised the current Thai government’s efforts at battling human trafficking, including the arrests of high-ranking figures.

For more information and updates about Thailand’s policies and actions against trafficking in persons and related issues, visit www.thaianti-humantraffickingaction.org

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