Trilateral talks on human trafficking this month: Thai PM

Trilateral talks on human trafficking this month: Thai PM

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha expects three-nation talks with Myanmar and Malaysia to take place this month in a bid to stamp out the region's thriving human-trafficking trade.

Myanmar has welcomed Prayut's call for talks but there has been no response from Malaysian authorities so far.

The Foreign Ministry is arranging a Thai-Myanmar meeting and will proceed with further steps, Prayut said.

The prime minister said there could be joint committees on foreign relations and security set up between Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia.

Myanmar is the origin of one of the main trafficked ethnic groups, the Rohingya, and Malaysia is a destination of choice for boat people.

He said the long- and short-term measures to tackle the crisis would be similar and were expected to be carried out equally effectively in each country.

"Thailand cannot deal with the issue single-handedly, but it has to be dealt with from the origins in Myanmar and Bangladesh," he said.

Prayut reiterated that a 10-day deadline he had imposed on local authorities was for a complete scrutiny of trafficking activities and locating possible detention camps and was not the timeframe for the long-standing problem to be solved.

Police have arrested a high-profile suspect involved in trafficking Rohingya and demanding ransoms from their relatives.

A police source said Suphoj Muensew was hiding at a home in Trang province.

There were explosives buried around this home, with detonators ready for use, and there were also tunnels and underground rooms with rifle slots, the source said.

Meanwhile, in Dhaka, three people-smugglers accused of trafficking thousands of people were killed in a gunfight with Bangladeshi police yesterday, officers said.

Police said the three "notorious" traffickers had died after being shot at during an anti-trafficking raid in the southern coastal town of Teknaf in the Cox's Bazar district, close to the border with Myanmar, AFP reported.

The traffickers were suspected of smuggling thousands of Bangladeshi and Myanmar nationals across rough seas to Malaysia and Thailand.

In related news, 54 Bangladeshis were taken to a local shelter after they were found in Songkhla's Rattaphum district.

Six Bangladeshis were also found at a nearby waterfall. They said that they were brought to Thailand by smugglers, entering the country in Satun and bound for Malaysia.

A total of 96 Bangladeshis and Rohingya have been taken to shelters after hiding on Khao Kaew mountain the past two days, officials said.

Officials believe many more migrants are lost on the mountain, where a mass grave was found earlier this month.

It is believed that the remains are mainly those of Rohingya and Bangladeshis.

Reuters reported yesterday that Myanmar's permanent secretary at the Ministry of Immigration Myint Kyaing said Myanmar had not yet been contacted about the meeting.

"I think we would be interested to take part in that meeting if they officially invited us," said Win Naing Tun, deputy chief of Myanmar's anti-human trafficking police.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, during an official visit to Thailand, yesterday commended Thailand for its "timely response" to the discovery of the mass graves and suspected trafficking camps.

"This is a very tragic finding. These atrocities must be stopped," Bishop told Reuters.

The United States, which has censured Thailand for failing to act against human trafficking, called on Monday for a speedy and credible inquiry into the discovery of the mass grave.

Bangladesh-based English-language The Daily Star reported that Bangladesh's ambassador to Thailand, Saida Muna Tasneem, had reached the first mass grave of human-trafficking victims in Songkhla on Thursday night.

She also met with the Bangladeshi survivors - one adult and one minor - from the mass grave uncovered in the province's Sadao district on May 1. The meeting came after sustained efforts from the Bangladesh Embassy in Bangkok.

The survivors are being kept in a hospital under police protection.

The Bangladesh ambassador is scheduled to meet the governor of Songkhla and the province's police chief to receive information about Bangladeshi nationals and exchange views on how Bangladesh can co-operate with the province's authorities to combat trafficking syndicates that are operating regionally.

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