7 May 2015

Fifty Thai police ‘punished’ over trafficking camp discovery

More than 50 Thai police are transferred from a border area over suspected human trafficking links after the discovery of 32 bodies in shallow graves.

Thailand’s prime minister has ordered an investigation into human trafficking camps near the Malaysian border after the discovery of 32 buried bodies.

More than 50 police officers are being moved away from the area over suspected links to trafficking networks.

In the past there were no sincere efforts to solve this problem Thai police chief

The 32 bodies are believed to be migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, and were found in shallow graves over the past week in the southern province of Songkhla.

Some of the bodies were found at a suspected human trafficking camp hidden deep in the jungle.

“In the past there were no sincere efforts to solve this problem,” said General Somyot Poompanmuang, chief of Royal Thai Police, at a meeting in Bangkok to discuss efforts to crack down on the illicit trade.

“We have transferred over 50 police officers over this issue because commanders in local areas know who has been involved in what.”

Some Thai officials say human trafficking has been allowed to flourish for years amid indifference and, sometimes, complicity by Thai authorities.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has ordered a clean up of suspected human trafficking camps around the country within 10 days, while UN officials have called for a regional effort to end the trade.

Thai police have arrested four men – three Thais and a Myanmar national – on suspicion of human trafficking, and arrest warrants have been issued for a further four people.

Thousands of illegal migrants including Rohinghya Muslims from western Myanmar and from Bangladesh, brave dangerous journeys by sea and land to escape religious and ethnic persecution and in search of work abroad.

They are often trafficked through Thailand, a predominantly Buddhist country, and taken into the country’s jungles, where traffickers demand ransoms to release them or smuggle them across the border to mainly Muslim Malaysia.