Politician arrested over the trafficking of boat people

Politician arrested over the trafficking of boat people
Migrants at a facility in Songkhla.

Police on Saturday arrested a local politician in Satun, Abu Ha-ura, over his alleged involvement in human trafficking, while two other suspects who are Abu's aides are among 49 wanted suspects.

Abu is among four politicians in custody, who also include the mayor and deputy mayor of Padang Besar municipality in Songkhla. The arrests of two other unnamed suspects means 15 people are being detained.

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

He yesterday underwent a re-enactment of his crimes at several locations in Khuan Don, where five Rohingya women took part by indicating the route they had been smuggled along between Khuan Don and Satun's Langu district.

On Wednesday, the prime minister imposed the 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 Rohingya trafficking and all other crimes.

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

Two police officers assigned to the Border Patrol and an area office have been suspended following allegations over their involvement with Rohingya labour trafficking, said deputy police chief General Aek Angsananont.

He also said he was seeking the permanent discharge of Padang Besar Mayor Bannajong Pongphol and his deputy, Prasit Lemleh, via the Songkhla provincial authority.

Aek said police had been working on the problem 24 hours a day since last week.

He said police seeking evidence to obtain court-approved warrants for 49 suspects in only seven days was a record. A few village heads were among the local politicians wanted under arrest warrants.

A body was found yesterday during an inspection of an abandoned Muslim cemetery in Sadao district in Songkhla, after six bodies had earlier been found in eight graves. DNA tests are under way to determine who they were.

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

There are 152 migrants, including eight women, at the Rattaphum facility undergoing verification of their nationalities, which reportedly include Myanmar nationals, Bangladeshis and Rohingya, an ethic group from Myanmar.

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