23 human traffickers arrested in Thailand crackdown

BANGKOK (BERNAMA) - Twenty-three human trafficking "agents" were arrested during a major operation conducted by the Thai police to prevent southern Thailand from becoming a transit destination for migrants trying to cross illegally into Malaysia.

The operation, which began in May, also uncovered major trafficking routes used by the human trafficking syndicates to smuggle illegals from Myanmar to Thailand, with Malaysia as their final destination.

"This trafficking routes began from Koh Song, a Myanmar island situated near Ranong in southern Thailand. From Ranong, the illegals will be taken by bus to Chumphon and Phattalung before continuing their journey to Hatyai, a major town in southern Thailand," said Maj Gen Surachet Hakpal.

From Hatyai, according to the deputy chief of Thailand's Tourist Police, the illegals would be taken either to Sadao or Sungai Golok, two border towns just a stone's throw from the Thai-Malaysian border for their final journey into Malaysia.

He said most of the illegals were Rohingya and other Myanmar nationals.

Maj Gen Surachet said, four of the 23 human trafficking "agents" caught in the sting were Myanmar nationals who had been "in the business" for over five years, facilitating illegal entry of their countrymen into Thailand and Malaysia.

"They (the four agents) would recruit Myanmar nationals (in Myanmar) and bring them to Koh Song for a journey which most probably ends in Malaysia as their final destination," he said.

The police, said Maj Gen Surachet, would step up efforts in dismantling human trafficking networks operating in the country, including those operated by foreigners, and had cooperated with neigbouring Malaysia to achieve that objective.

He vowed that the "networks" would be crippled in the next three months and those involved in the crime charged in court.

In the three-month operation, the police seized two buses, three pick-up trucks and three cars believed to have been used by the syndicates to transport the illegals from Ranong to the Thai-Malaysian border.

Meanwhile, Region Nine deputy police chief Maj Gen Daoloi Muendech said investigations by the police revealed there are five groups of human trafficking agents currently operating in Myanmar.

"Investigation also showed that at least 50 people are involved with the crime in Thailand," he said, adding that there were three groups of agents working in destination country Malaysia.

Thai Police Region Nine, which oversee law and order in southern Thailand, have issued arrest warrants for those suspects involved in human trafficking.

Maj Gen Surachet and Maj Gen Daoloi also inspected a temporary camp used by human trafficking agents to shelter illegal migrants in Banklum district, Songkla, before smuggling their human cargo across the border into Malaysia.

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