Stepped up crackdown on money laundering, trafficking

Police are preparing to arrest as many as 199 suspects on money laundering charges, some of them related to alleged human trafficking, as a Deputy Prime Minister pressed authorities last week to maintain and intensify their campaigns against human trafficking, illegal fishing and labor abuse.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who is also Minister of Defense and oversees national security issues, said that Thailand has been following a raft of recommendations  from the United States on what measures to take to improve its response to human trafficking. The U.S. suggested enacting and enforcing stricter laws against traffickers, along with greater protections for victims and the vulnerable.

Thailand has passed several new laws either dealing directly with trafficking or related to trafficking, as part of a comprehensive set of policies, programs and actions designed to break up trafficking syndicates and bring their members to justice.

One key to building successful cases is following the money trail, and last week police at the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) said they were reviewing court-approved warrants for 199 suspects allegedly involved in money laundering. Police said the review would take approximately one week.

Police sources told local media that raids would soon follow, and that the division expects most suspects will be captured and under arrest by the end of the month.

Suthin Sappuang, chief of the CSD, said he had mobilized police units and commando teams to carry out the raids across the country. The CSD is working with the Anti Money Laundering Office to develop strong cases against the suspects.

The suspects are believed to be laundering money from human trafficking and drug smuggling activities, along with sophisticated fraud operations. They declined to give more details, saying they did not want to tip off the suspects to the coming raids.

A substantial number of trafficking victims end up working in the fishing industry, and Prawit said the government was using its executive power to swiftly prosecute trawlers engaged in illegal activities, whether they be human trafficking, labor abuse or illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.