Court issues arrest warrants for 68 more human traffickers
A wider net is tightening around more modern-day slavers as a Thai court issued arrest warrants for 68 more suspected human traffickers in southern Thailand last week, in addition to 72 indictments already handed down against an army general, rogue police officers, local politicians and organized criminals implicated in people smuggling syndicates.
The suspects are believed to be part of syndicates that smuggled migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, including Rohingya Muslims, into virtual prison camps and forced labor in the fishing, seafood and other industries. Mass graves and abandoned camps where migrants had been held against their will were discovered near the border with Malaysia in March, triggering the first wave of arrests. Some more graves and camps were also found inside Malaysia by authorities in that country.
The new round of arrest warrants clearly demonstrate that the Thai authorities are sustaining their war on trafficking and, contrary to warnings by some anti-trafficking and human rights groups, have not eased up or become complacent. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has made putting an end to trafficking a top national priority.
Although the new arrests warrants were issued by the provincial court in southern Songkhla province, the cases will be tried in the newly established special division of the Criminal Court in Bangkok devoted solely to human trafficking crimes. The division was founded to ensure that justice will be swift in trafficking cases, and that cases will be handled and heard by prosecutors and judges with the necessary experience and expertise.
Of the new warrants, 26 are for suspects who have been accused of direct involvement in trafficking, while the remaining 42 are for those alleged to have laundered money from trafficking gangs or aided and abetted them in other ways. The Anti-Money Laundering Office has been assisting in the investigations, and has frozen nearly $6 million in assets belonging to the newly accused.
In addition, a total of five government agencies allied in the fight against trafficking signed a Memorandum of Understanding last week to facilitate greater cooperation and coordination in their efforts. Among the key advancements they will implement is the sharing of a database on human trafficking criminals and suspects, to prevent wrongdoers from slipping through the cracks.
The agencies that signed the agreement were the Royal Thai Police, the Office of the Attorney-General, the Criminal Court, Justice Ministry and Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.
Police further north also arrested traffickers last week. Officers arrested two men in a Bangkok suburb for allegedly luring young Lao women, aged between 14 and 22, into forced prostitution with false promises of waitressing jobs.
For more information and updates about Thailand’s policies and actions against trafficking in persons and related issues, visit www.thaianti-humantraffickingaction.org
Thailand Focus August 17, 2015
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