August 13, 2015
Twenty-two arrested over Thailand trafficking as authorities continue to ignore official involvement in trade.
Twenty-two people who have profited from human trafficking have been arrested in Thailand as part of an ongoing crackdown, local police have said.
Major-General Paween Pongsirin, a senior police commander in the country’s south, said on Thursday that 26 new arrest warrants had been issued for suspects accused of trading humans and money laundering.
From the new warrants, 12 individuals had already been arrested, Pongsirin said.
Another 16 warrants have been issued for money laundering charges related to trafficking, of whom 10 have been detained.
Officials ‘not involved’
Thailand has previously been accused of ignoring official complicity in the multi-million dollar trade which flourished until recently through the southern provinces and into Malaysia.
“No state officials are involved in this batch,” Pongsirin added.
In July, Thai prosecutors announced 72 people had been indicted after a crackdown in May which led to the unravelling of vast networks of people smuggling with thousands of migrants abandoned in open waters and jungle camps by traffickers which eventually forced a regional response.
Among the suspects was Lieuenant General Manas Kongpan, thought to be a major smuggling kingpin in the human trafficking trade.
Thailand and the daily trevail of human trafficking
His alleged involvement has raised questions for junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who has repeatedly justified his coup last year as a needed solution to the graft that he says flourished under a series of civilian governments.
Manas was promoted while Prayut was his army chief.
Manas remains the only military officer charged with complicity in people smuggling, an issue that has raised concern among rights groups who say it is unlikely such an influential officer could be acting alone.
The current crackdown has come after the reporting period of the US State Department’s latest “Trafficking in Persons” report ended and Prayut has expressed hopes his country will find itself in a better position next year.
In May, Thai police found at least 30 shallow graves believed to contain the bodies of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh in what authorities described as an abandoned trafficking camp in remote jungle in the country’s south.