Thai politician arrested over alleged involvement in human trafficking

Thai police arrested a local politician in southern Satun province over his alleged involvement in human trafficking, while two other suspects who are his aides are among 49 wanted suspects. -- PHOTO: THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Thai police arrested a local politician in southern Satun province over his alleged involvement in human trafficking, while two other suspects who are his aides are among 49 wanted suspects. -- PHOTO: THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thai police arrested a local politician in southern Satun province over his alleged involvement in human trafficking, while two other suspects who are his aides are among 49 wanted suspects.

Abu Ha-ura is among four politicians in custody, who also include the mayor and deputy mayor of Padang Besar municipality in Songkhla. Two other unnamed suspects were also arrested, bringing the total number of people detained to 15.

Abu, 54, a councillor with the provincial assembly representing Khuan Don district, had allegedly confessed to the crimes, after he was charged with human trafficking, abduction and restraint of others' freedom.

He re-enacted his crimes on Sunday at several locations in Khuan Don. Five women from the Rohingya ethnic group in Myanmar took part in the re-enactment by indicating the route they had been smuggled along between Khuan Don and Satun's Langu district.

Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha imposed a 10-day deadline on local civilian authorities, police and the military to carry out a complete scan of trafficking activities and possible detention camps while suppressing activities associated with trafficking of Rohingya refugees and all other crimes.

Prayut threatened to enforce drastic measures under Article 44 of the interim charter if there were delays or the failure to the scan and suppress as ordered.

Deputy police chief General Aek Angsananont said two police officers assigned to the Border Patrol and an area office had been suspended following allegations over their involvement with Rohingya human trafficking. He also said he was seeking the permanent discharge of Padang Besar Mayor Bannajong Pongphol and his deputy Prasit Lemleh.

In Rattaphum, four men were held on Sunday after being identified by Rohingya migrants as guards who controlled and intimidated them when they were detained at various locations by smugglers. In Ranong, military and civilian officials ordered the seizure of 16 fishing trawlers modified illegally to smuggle Rohingya and other illegal migrants. Eight of the vessels were registered in Myanmar.

More than 240 migrants are under government care at three locations in Songkhla's Rattaphum, Hat Yai and Sadao districts, including 180 abandoned in the past few days by smugglers fearing detection.