BANGKOK: Twenty-three human trafficking “agents” were arrested during a major operation conducted by Thai police to rid southern Thailand from becoming a transit destination for migrants trying to cross illegally into Malaysia.
The operations, which began in May and lasted till this month, also uncovered major trafficking routes used by the human trafficking syndicates to smuggle illegals from Myanmar to Thailand with Malaysia as their final destination.
“These trafficking routes began from Koh Song, a Myanmar island situated near Ranong in southern Thailand. From Ranong, the illegals will be taken by bus to Chumphon and Phattalung before continuing their journey to Hatyai, a major town in southern Thailand,” said Maj Gen Surachet Hakpal here.
From Hatyai, according to the deputy chief of Thailand’s tourist police, the illegals would be taken either to Sadao or Sungai Golok, two border towns just a stone’s throw from the Thai-Malaysian border, for the last leg of their journey into Malaysia.
He said most of the illegals were Rohingya and other Myanmar nationals.
Surachet said, four of the 23 human trafficking “agents” caught in the sting were Myanmar nationals who had been “in the business” for over five years, facilitating illegal entry of their countrymen into Thailand and Malaysia.
“They (the four agents) would recruit Myanmar nationals (in Myanmar) and bring them to Koh Song for a journey which most probably ends in Malaysia as their final destination,” he said.
The police, said Surachet, would step up efforts in dismantling human trafficking networks operating in the country, including those run by foreigners, and had cooperated with neighbouring Malaysia to achieve that objective.
He vowed that the “networks” would be crippled in the next three months and those involved in the crime charged in court.
In the three-month operation, the police seized two buses, three pick-up trucks and three cars believed to have been used by the syndicates to transport the illegals from Ranong to the Thai-Malaysian border.
Meanwhile, Thai Police Region Nine deputy chief Maj Gen Daoloi Muendech said investigations by the police revealed that there were five groups of human trafficking agents currently operating in Myanmar.
“Investigation also showed that at least 50 people are involved with the crime in Thailand,” he said, adding that there were three groups of agents working in Malaysia.
Thai Police Region Nine, which oversees law and order in southern Thailand, have issued arrest warrants on those suspected of human trafficking.
Surachet and Muendech also inspected a temporary camp used by human trafficking agents to shelter illegal migrants in Banklum district, Songkhla, before smuggling their human cargo across the border into Malaysia.