Bangladesh police arrest 'kingpin' of human trafficking

Bangladeshi migrants who landed in Pulau Langkawi in May 2015.
Bangladeshi migrants who landed in Pulau Langkawi in May 2015. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

DHAKA • Bangladesh police have arrested a human-trafficking "godfather" in a fresh crackdown on smugglers amid fears of a resumption of the racket that sparked a regional migrant crisis earlier this year, an officer said yesterday.

The police have arrested at least 20 traffickers in the past month, including alleged kingpin Dil Mohammad, over the weekend in the southern smuggling town of Teknaf bordering Myanmar.

Teknaf police inspector Kabir Hossain said Mohammad, 45, was arrested after arriving back in Bangladesh from Malaysia. "Mohammad has been wanted in Malaysia and Thailand for smuggling hundreds of poor Bangladeshis to Malaysia by using rickety boats in the Bay of Bengal," Inspector Hossain said.

Bangladesh targeted smugglers in May after persecuted Rohingya from Myanmar and economic migrants from Bangladesh were abandoned at sea en route to South-east Asia.

A crackdown by Thailand led to the unravelling of people-smuggling networks that saw thousands stranded in open waters and dumped in jungle camps. Bangladesh smugglers who went into hiding at the time have since returned to their villages now that the monsoon season is ending.

With seas expected to be calmer in the coming weeks, experts said smugglers were looking to restart voyages to Thailand and Malaysia.

"Gradually, the fugitive smugglers are returning home after the end of the monsoon," Insp Hossain said. With seas expected to be calmer in the coming weeks, experts said smugglers were looking to restart voyages to Thailand and Malaysia.

"The smugglers have been accumulating strength for a fresh start to their business. We have reports that their grassroots operations have become active," Mr Shakirul Islam, a migration expert, said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline 'Bangladesh police arrest 'kingpin' of human trafficking'. Print Edition | Subscribe