Thailand court opens hearings into deadly trafficking of Rohingya

Lt-General Manas Kongpan, right, a former specialist in the Royal Thai Army and defendant in the Rohingya human-trafficking case, was summoned for the first investigation of the case at the Criminal Court yesterday.
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

The Criminal Court heard the first evidence yesterday in the high-profile police probe into deadly mass trafficking of Rohingya and other boat people.

Pol Maj General Paween Pongsirin, former head of the human trafficking investigation team, who recently resigned, was present at the court.

Some 88 alleged offenders, including Pajjuban "Ko Tong" Angchotephan, the former Satun Provincial Administrative Organisation chairman, and Lt General Manas Kongpan, a former specialist in the Royal Thai Army, were summoned to testify in the case.

When the investigation opened, months ago, reporters and relatives of the men charged were not allowed into a court in the far South. But with proceedings now shifted to Bangkok, supporters of the accused and the media were able yesterday to monitor proceedings from a live broadcast from the court.

The court was shown evidence such as money transfer links, data relating to mobile phone calls and other objects and documents. This amounted to some 15 crates and 70 folders overall.

All the defendants have denied the police allegations. 

The court ordered the defendants to hand over details of bank accounts and lawsuit guidelines by this Friday. Due to the large volume of evidence, questioning of witnesses will start earlier than scheduled - next Tuesday.

Pol Maj General Paween, was transferred from his post to be deputy commander of Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Centre. 

He said the came to the court yesterday as head of the investigative officers and clarified that he resigned because he had received threats by the human trafficking network and was not familiar with the Deep South.

"I still want to be a police officer to serve the people. I don't know whether this is my last mission but I assure that I'll do my best," he said.

In other human trafficking cases, the Anti-Human Trafficking Division announced the arrest of Surat Sangsri. Acting commander Pol Col Kornchai Klaiklung alleged that Surat, the owner of a karaoke restaurant, acted as an agent to find crews to work on fishing vessels. He was detained following information from trafficking victims forced to work on vessels in Indonesian waters.

In Trang, the Governor Detchrat Simsiri presented a lawsuit against Kantrang Fisheries Association president Sompol Jirojmontri on charges of human trafficking in the fishery industry.

The case is ongoing.

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