Hunt on for more human trafficking suspects

Armed police sailing towards a trafficking camp in Satun, southern Thailand.

HAADYAI: Thai police are on the hunt for more suspects, including Malaysians, said to be involved in human trafficking activities across the Malaysia-Thailand border.

In an interview with The Star yesterday, Royal Thai Police Deputy Commissioner-General Aek Angsananont (pic) believed that Malaysian criminals are also members of the human trafficking ring.

"Some of them are also believed to hold dual Malaysia and Thailand citizenships. It's not possible that only Thais were involved as the Malaysians know how to move people from Thailand across the border," he claimed during the interview at the Haadyai Police Station after a meeting with top police officers on the matter.

He was responding to claims by non-governmental organisations and Rohingya groups that human trafficking activities exist in Malaysia and there were also slave-trafficking camps on the Malaysian side of Padang Besar in Perlis.

Eleven people, including top officers and politicians, have been arrested by Thai police, but Aek said none were Malaysians.

Aek also believed that there is a network of human traffickers comprising Malaysians and Thais.

He added that Padang Besar mayor Bannajong Pongphol, who was among those detained, is believed to be one of the most influential persons in the syndicate.

"We will also expand our operations to clean up the human trafficking camps, not only in Padang Besar, but in Ranong and Satun as well," he added.

The Thai deputy police chief added that 32 bodies believed to be Rohingya and Bangladeshis have been found while 28 arrest warrants were issued, and more will be issued soon.

On whether there are migrant camps on the Malaysian side, Aek said he could not confirm as "the camps are all in the jungle, it's hard to tell if they were on the Thai or Malaysian side".

"We found a lot of Rohingya and Bangladeshis wandering around in Padang Besar and Haadyai, whom we believe had crossed over from Malaysia," he said.

He said the camps were not slave camps as depicted, but temporary shelters for the migrants who were held captive by the syndicate members.

Vowing his government's commitment in closing down such camps, Aek expressed his confidence that the Malaysian government would also do the same.

"We believe they'll tackle the issue with us," he said.

Aek also said the Thai and Malaysian police would hold a meeting on the human trafficking issue tomorrow in Phuket.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had said although the graves were not on Malaysian soil, the matter should be taken seriously due to the proximity of the two countries.