PM seeks 3-nation talk on Rohingya

    THAILAND is seeking a talk with the countries involved in the transnational crime of human trafficking – including Malaysia and Myanmar – Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.

    The Nation May 8, 2015 1:00 am

    Over 50 police officers transferred pending probe
    THAILAND is seeking a talk with the countries involved in the transnational crime of human trafficking – including Malaysia and Myanmar – Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.

    The task of tackling human trafficking has to be jointly tackled and it should be understood that the problem did not originate in Thailand, he said, adding the Kingdom was just a transit point.

    The proposal was made after Thailand unearthed scores of graves in Songkhla’s Sadao border district and found human remains believed to be trafficked migrants who died during their journey. The site in Tambon Padang Bezar was used as a waiting area for the migrants, mostly Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group in Myanmar, before the traffickers sneaked them into Malaysia.

    Prayut said that migrants arrested in Thailand would be taken care of. “They will be charged with illegal entry and after that they would be detained, not jailed. We will also provide them with food according to their religious beliefs This is the burden of Thailand,” he said.

    Prayut asked why previous governments had not tackled this issue.

    Meanwhile a total of 53 policemen have been transferred in a sudden midnight order amid a pending probe into crimes related to the trafficking of Rohingya labourers.

    The policemen were based in provinces where crimes related to the Rohingya were found to have occurred while another 15 officers have been moved to inactive posts pending internal probes into whether they had benefited from the traffickers or it was a case of incompetence.

    Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday expressed surprise over the ignorance of local police and military units about either the trafficking activities or the graves. Arrest warrants would be issued for anyone suspected of involvement with the trafficking of the Rohingya, regardless of them being government officials or members of local administrative bodies, he said.

    Meanwhile, another 30 graves suspected to be those of Rohingya migrants were found yesterday in an abandoned Muslim graveyard in Songkhla’s Hat Yai district. Inspection of these graves is underway to find out whether there are bodies buried or if any of them belongs to the Rohingya people. A campsite suspected of holding Rohingya people during transit before being trafficked was also found yesterday in Rattaphum district.

    Temporary shelter

    A police source said the campsite was a temporary shelter for the Rohingya before they were brought from Satun province by smugglers to Sadao district, a border area from where they were taken to Malaysia.

    A total of 28 bodies have been verified as those of Rohingya victims of human trafficking, from more than 60 secret and open graves found in Phang Nga and Songkhla provinces. Six bodies are undergoing post-mortem DNA verification.

    An abandoned graveyard in tambon Chalung was used to accommodate Rohingya people by smugglers before trafficking them to Malaysia or other countries, a police source said. Local residents said there were only six bodies buried in this graveyard through licensed funerals. A team of civil defence volunteers apprehended 13 Rohingya men at a location in tambon Chalung from a group of 30 while they were on their way to Malaysia. One of the 13 men said they had entered Thailand illegally in Ranong and Satun, before trekking through jungles for 13 days. There are no details about the whereabouts of the other 17 people who were travelling with this group.

    Officials from Takua Pa district office in Phang Nga arrested eight Myanmar men and two women while being smuggled by a Thai man to Chumphon province. Smuggler Phidej Janjua admitted to earning Bt2,300 from each of the 10 Myanmar nationals to drive them to a bus terminal. Of the 18 people sought by police, arrest warrants have been issued for 10, seven of whom are local politicians and members of local administrative bodies. Four of them have turned themselves in.