SATUN - Suspected human trafficking mastermind Pajjuban Angchotephan was a former leader of a political party and has wide connections among authorities and certain government leaders, said Satun governor Dejrat Simsiri.
This, claimed Simsiri, was how Angchotephan or Ko Tong (Big Brother Tong), as he is popularly known, managed to give authorities the slip for so long.
However, Simsiri declined to reveal the political party that Ko Tong was affiliated with, nor would he provide further details on the man who had since surrendered to the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok on Monday.
Interestingly, Ko Tong was the former Satun Provincial Administration chairman some 10 years ago.
Nonetheless, Simsiri denied claims that the Rat Yai Island allegedly owned by Ko Tong was used as a transit point for the Rohingyas. "It is a private island owned by Ko Tong's grandfather and it has been inherited by a relative.
"There are also several other families who are not related to Ko Tong living on the island.
"I went to the Rat Yai island with the police who were there to conduct investigations a few days ago and I can confirm that the island was not used for any human trafficking activities," he told The Star at his office in Thanon Satunthanee here yesterday.
The Rat Yai Island is located near Koh Sarai, some 50km north from Langkawi, and is usually not marked on most maps.
Simsiri, who also went on board the stranded vessels to offer humanitarian aid to the Rohingyas last week, said that they had never planned to land in Thailand, and had told authorities that they wanted to go to Malaysia.