PM orders swift investigation and tough punishment for human traffickers
Arrests made for trafficking camp deaths, including local officials
The Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered a swift and thorough investigation into reports of camps used by human smugglers and traffickers in southern Thailand close to the Thai-Malaysian border, vowing “severest punishment” for human traffickers and anyone involved.
On Monday May 4th, several suspects, including local government officials and a Myanmar national, have been arrested for their alleged involvement in running these camps along the Thai-Malaysian border.
“Anyone involved in human trafficking will receive the severest punishment no matter what their position. If they are state officials, they will be severely punished, both in terms of criminal and disciplinary. Bad people and crooks who exploit other humans should have no place to stand in the Thai society”, Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, deputy government spokesman, quoted the Prime Minister as saying. He added that the Thai Government was strongly determined to get rid of all forms of human trade and would not allow the country to be used by human traffickers.
He said, upon receiving the report, the Prime Minister immediately ordered the police to spare no effort or any person to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Thailand’s national police chief assigned one of the country’s top police officers to lead the investigation, and personally flew to southern Thailand to ensure the matter was treated with the highest priority.
The Prime Minister also instructed the Deputy Defense Minister and the Army Commander to make an urgent visit to the area in order to speed up the investigation and mobilize all relevant agencies to crack down on the transnational networks involved in this crime. The Prime Minister also gave a clear instruction to all officials involved in the investigation to ensure safety of the witnesses and provide humanitarian assistance to all victims, regardless of their nationalities.
Among those arrested on Monday were a municipal councilor, two assistant village headmen, and a Myanmar national. Most of the victims are believed to have come from either Myanmar or Bangladesh and are probably members of the Rohingya ethnic minority.
Representatives of the embassy of Bangladesh in Thailand have begun working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has pledged full cooperation, and Thai authorities to confirm the identity and nationality of a survivor from the camp. This comes just days after diplomats from both countries announced they were working on an agreement for closer cooperation on combating human trafficking.
Arrest warrants were also issued for a deputy mayor, a village headman and two other individuals. Police said warrants would be issued for more suspects in coming days. They told reporters those being pursued include local politicians, community leaders and administrative officials. Two police officers overseeing the area have been moved from their positions and are also being investigated for involvement in the trafficking ring.
Police General Chakthip Chaichinda, the deputy national police chief assigned by national police chief Police General Somyot Pumpunmuang to lead the investigation had arrived in Songkhla province by Sunday and was conferring with police and security officials there. By Monday, arrests were being made.
The victim who escaped told police that many people from Myanmar and Bangladesh had been held in the camp for months as traffickers demanded ransoms from their families and waited to smuggle them across the border and deliver them to traffickers in Malaysia. He said they were lured by trafficking gangs in their own countries who promised them jobs in Malaysia.
Thailand’s border region with Malaysia, like its border with Myanmar, is considered porous, containing many hills, small mountains and thick forests.
For more information and updates about Thailand’s policies and actions against trafficking in persons and related issues, visit www.thaianti-humantraffickingaction.org