Four people were apprehended and arrest warrants issued over human trafficking in the Southern region of Thailand after a mass grave was discovered in Songkhla province along the Thai-Malaysia border. The authorities are enlarging search for more victims’ bodies in the Andaman Sea coast from tomorrow.
The path for boat people through Thailand has generally begun with traffickers holding Rohingyas or Bangladeshis in improvised camps among mangrove-covered islands off the provinces of Phang Nga and Ranong, north of Phuket, said a report of Phuket Wan today. Thai police have arrested the suspects – Asan Inthathanoo, 48, a tambon Padang Besar municipal councillor; Ror-ay Sonyalae, 41, assistant headman of Ban Talo village; Alee Lamoh, 47, assistant village head, and Sawniang Anu, a 40-year-old Myanmar man.
The four were charged with human trafficking, detention and abduction for ransom. Police sought arrest warrants for another four suspects linked to the Rohingya detention camps in Songkhla. Besides, two low-ranking policemen of tambon Padang Besar were transferred to inactive posts as they had been responsible for the area where the detention camps and Rohingya bodies were found.
After the discovery of 26 bodies in one camp in Songkhla province, the Thai authorities are keen to exhume other victims at both ends of the trafficking pipeline through Thailand. Media reports claimed to have found a second jungle camp in Songkhla where more bodies are expected to be found. Local police said they were unable to find that camp. Police Gen Chakthip Chaichinda, deputy national police chief who has been assigned to lead a human trafficking investigation in the South, was scheduled to meet investigators in Hat Yai district of Songkhla today to verify the number of camps in the area.
“According to the information I have obtained, there are many detention camps along the Thai-Malaysian border,” Pol Gen Chakthip said. Lt-Gen Prakarn Chonlayuth, commander of the 4th Army Region, said he would ask Malaysia to conduct more patrols along the border to suppress human trafficking. Volunteers under the direction of Takuapa district Chief Manit Pleantong will begin looking for bodies at Andaman coast camps tomorrow.
In the meantime, a former president of the Rohingya Association of Thailand told Bangkok Post yesterday that thousands of Rohingya people who are possibly victims of human trafficking are being kept in at least 60 detention camps scattered throughout mountains along the Thai-Malaysian border. “The discovery of the recent detention camp is just the tip of the iceberg. Currently there are at least 60 detention camps along the Thai-Malaysian border,” Abdul Kalam, the chief of the association, said adding that about 150-800 refugees are being held in each camp.
Most of the camps are situated on the Malaysian side, he claimed. These camps are thought to have been used in the area to hold Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in primitive conditions while ransom demands were made to their families and friends. However, Bangladesh’s Ambassador to Thailand Saida Muna Tasneem told The Daily Star over phone that they were yet to confirm of any Bangladeshi national’s rescue or death in the graves found recently in the Thai southern region.