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The body of a pregnant woman is exhumed north of Phuket this week

Mayor, Police Arrested for Thailand Trafficking: Heads Will Roll, Says Police Chief

Friday, May 8, 2015
PHUKET: The Mayor of Pedang Besar has been arrested and accused of being a leading human trafficker in southern Thailand as a large-scale investigation continues.

Mayor Banyong Pongpon and two police are in custody with a total of 29 arrest warrants issued so far.

Since last weekend's discovery of bodies in a camp near Pedang Besar, close to the Malaysian border, a total of 31 bodies have been removed or exhumed from four camps in the jungle.

The bodies are believed to belong to Rohingya and Bangladeshi boatpeople who died of hunger or disease or were beaten to death while in the hands of traffickers.

One survivor, Anuzar, 28, told Phuketwan exclusively from his hospital bed earlier in the week that eight brokers controlled one camp where he and up to 1000 others were held at any one time.

''Most of us have been beaten or abused,'' said Anuzar, who had been held for nine months. ''In the camp, we were never able to get enough food or water.''

He is now being held in a secret location as a prime witness against traffickers in Thailand.

Another person with a knowledge of the trade in people says as many as 80 percent of the camps could have been in jungle on the Malaysian side of the border.

Thirty-eight senior police, Immigration officers and Marine Police who are suspected of having knowledge of the trafficking have been transferred to Bangkok, away from the south and the Andaman province of Ranong.

Searches at abandoned camps where Rohingya and Bangladeshis were also held on the Andaman holiday coast uncovered three bodies earlier this week, one of a woman believed to have been heavily pregnant when she died.

Authorities believe the boatpeople have all arrived in Thailand and been secretly kept in open pens in as many as 45 mangrove-covered Andaman islands before being transferred by road to the southern jungles, where as many as 60 camps are alleged to have been set up.

It remains unclear how thousands of boatpeople were transported hundreds of kilometres by road without detection over the space of several years.

''Heads will roll,'' Thaikland's Commissioner-General of Police, General Somyot Poompanmoung, told Associated Press today as the investigation continued.

Thailand was relegated last year to Tier 3, the lowest level on the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons register, and seems likely to languish there this year.

Halting the flow of Rohingya south seeking sanctuary is only possible if the Government of Burma ceases its tacit ethnic cleansing, which pushes the unwanted and stateless Muslim men, women and children into the sea.

Police from Thailand and Malaysia are to meet at a seminar on human trafficking and other issues on Phuket next week.

Comments

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A alleged corrupt mayor and police, who would imagine.

Posted by slickmelb on May 8, 2015 13:59

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Dear Ed

Congratulations for keeping your readers informed of developments in this important story.

I could not help but notice the sentence: Thirty-eight senior police, immigration officers and Marine Police who are suspected of having knowledge of the trafficking have been transferred to Bangkok, away from the south and the Andaman province of Ranong.

In particular, I noticed the reference to Marine Police. Now I would think that the term, Marine Police seems to fit the description of naval forces - especially when read in the context of the Reuters story of 17 July 2013. It would fit the description of naval forces in that 41 word Reuters paragraph republished by Phuketwan on 17 July 2013, which earned the scorn of a Navy captain.

Indeed, I have noticed in the Reuters reporting that the term naval forces was also used to describe militia commanders. So, naval forces might mean Marine Police and/or militia commanders. It seems to be a very vague term.

I note that Reuters is not facing any criminal defamation actions from the Royal Thai Navy but that in at least one report of December 2013 Reuters was much bolder in its accusations against the Royal Thai Navy than it was on 17 July 2013. For obvious reasons, I will not provide a link to any subsequent reports. Reuters was also specifically critical of Thailand in headlines to its reports of December 2013.

So, Phuketwan was charged over a vague 41 word paragraph that it republished from a Reuters report and that it republished surrounded by quotation marks. Phuketwan made no direct accusations against the Royal Thai Navy at all. Phuketwan simply republished a vague criticism from Reuters about naval forces.

In contrast, Reuters made at least one direct criticism of the Royal Thai Navy and has escaped prosecution. I would not know whether the direct criticism is justified or not. However, I do see the irony in prosecuting the journalists of Phuketwan who have always been supporters and admirers of the Royal Thai Navy (see Phuketwan article of 18 December 2013 - Navy Uses Computer Act to Sue Journalists).

It has also not been lost on this reader, and I am sure it has not been lost on most readers, that Reuters' circulation is absolutely massive compared to that of the excellent but tiny news service called Phuketwan.

Congratulations again Ed. I note that the Pulitzer board commended Jason Szep and Andrew Marshall of Reuters for their "courageous reports" but the real courage has been shown by you and by Khun Chutima Sidasathian.

Today is VE Day (Victory in Europe Day). It will be a victory for you, and a great victory for the Royal Thai Navy and for common sense if the good officers in the Navy drop the charges unconditionally.

Ian Yarwood
Solicitor - Perth, Western Australia

Posted by Ian Yarwood on May 8, 2015 16:04

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When I come to Thailand, I only cry for a baby elefant.

Posted by Lena on May 8, 2015 16:14

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The hunting expedition has begun, the hunt for scapegoats.........

Posted by Arun Muruga on May 8, 2015 16:23

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I fully agree,"The REAL courage has been shown by you, Alan Morison and by Khun Chutima Sidasathian.
I do concur with Ian Yarwood's comment. Naval forces can also mean, anybody or any organization of military vessels belonging to a country.

Posted by Robin on May 8, 2015 17:18

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NOT before time................

Posted by DG on May 8, 2015 19:46

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Reading about those arrested in south Thailand, I just wonder who has inflicted harm on the reputation of the naval forces, those officers or those journalists who report about it?

Posted by Bob on May 8, 2015 21:25

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Dear Ed

I note that there is a fresh AP report that the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop has described the discovery of graves as "shocking" and a "terrible tragedy."

However, the discovery would come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who has taken any interest in the many reports over the past 7 years of human trafficking through Thailand.

The thing that is truly shocking is that it has taken this long for any significant action to be taken.

Posted by Ian Yarwood on May 8, 2015 23:51

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Hi Ed

Al Jazeera and AFP have just reported that Bangladeshi police have killed notorious traffickers in a firefight.

Posted by Ian Yarwood on May 8, 2015 23:58

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I would like to sincerely thank you Ian Yarwood, on behalf of all Phuketwan readers of conscience - as you have made a positive commitment to contribute quality content to this site, partly because you are a Solicitor, but also because you care..

That you fully understand the ramifications of this case going forward makes us doubly grateful that you take time to pitch in, as it were.

Even lowly I have a personal stake in the matter, albeit tiny compared to Alan and Chutima - as I published several books about Thailand under a pseudonym, two of them about tourist safety - rather a lack thereof, and one about Expat criminals in the country.

Consequently, I could be at risk because I state the truth (such as the alleged "skewed" road fatality numbers in Thailand) - which could be potentially dangerous to my person if the Navy wins the case against Phuketwan for example, hence my anonymity for life by choice.

You see Ian, I am not as Brave as Alan and Chutima, make no mistake about that.

As my wife is from Thailand I return time and again, hence my attempt to fly under the radar for the most part.

Being blacklisted from Thailand or worse is not on my agenda at the moment. Take good care eh..

Sincerely,
D. Farang (author name)

Posted by farang888 on May 9, 2015 04:41

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"Heads will roll" but strangely in only the police divisions and not the military ones...

Posted by LivinLOS on May 9, 2015 07:14

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I just feel very disgusted by the fact that humans can inflict such pain to other humans. I'm surprised they didn't set up crematoriums... Those who thought Auschwitz was unique in history are wrong again.Concentration camps, appalling transportation conditions, torture, arbitrary are very well alive.

Posted by william on May 9, 2015 15:18

Editor Comment:

It would be mistake to compare human trafficking with genocide, william. There is a vast difference. People mostly do not die in trafficking camps because their captors want to exterminate them. Auschwitz and other holocaust camps have no modern equivalent. Human trafficking is abhorrent but it is not genocide.

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Hi falang888 (D. Falang) from Canada.

Thanks for your very positive comments. Congratulations too on the publication of your books.

At the risk of putting Alan Morison and Khun Chutima on a pedestal (which I am sure they would not want), I wish to also stress that I am nowhere near as brave as they are either. I just feel that it is beholden on everyone who values freedom and freedom of responsible speech to express their moral support of people such as Alan and Khun Chutima.

It would seem that you and I share the same views of many of the other readers in that regard.

Phuketwan is just one forum where people can express their support for Alan and Khun Chutima. Foreign readers in particular may write emails and/or letters to their own political representatives and embassies. It is very easy to perform a Google search to find out the relevant names and addresses. It is also easy to write letters/emails to the editors of other publications.

Imagine if no one read any of Phuketwan's reports. Imagine if no one spoke out in support of Phuketwan. Alan and Khun Chutima are simply journalists and yes Alan can also express editorial opinions but there are many other people who have real power to disrupt the business plans of the multinational criminal enterprises that exploit some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

It is to Phuketwan's credit that it also highlights the efforts of Phuketwan's Person of the Year for 2014, Khun Manit Pleantong who is the District Chief of Takuapa (see Phuketwan 1 January 2015). Khun Manit, at his own expense and on his own initiative, has disrupted the human trafficking in his sphere of influence. He has of course had the support of many brave volunteers. Imagine if Khun Manit did not have the volunteers to support him in setting up road blocks and in raiding traffickers' camps.

It is also to Phukewan's credit that it has acknowledged that it was the Royal Thai Navy that in October 2008 first alerted Phuketwan's journalists to the boatpeople from Burma (see for example Phuketwan 18 December 2013). Indeed, Phuketwan defended the Royal Thai Navy when other news agencies accused the Navy of being involved in inhumane pushbacks, adding that it was another branch of the military that was involved.

Phuketwan had enjoyed an excellent relationship with the Royal Thai Navy prior to being charged with criminal defamation and with a breach of the Computer Crimes Act. It was out of character for the Royal Thai Navy to charge the Phuketwan journalists. These charges are a great distraction, they serve no purpose and simply harm both the Royal Thai Navy and the Phuketwan journalists.

Phuketwan should be left in peace to continue reporting on the officials and police who are being investigated for their involvement in human trafficking.

Ian Yarwood
Solicitor - Perth, Western Australia

Posted by Ian Yarwood on May 9, 2015 15:38

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Dear Editor

In case some of your readers have not had a chance to notice, I advise that there is an interesting story in the Bangkok Post today, 9 May 2015 concerning the visit yesterday by the Australian Foreign Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop MP.

The headline is "Australia helps tackle vile trade" and states that Australia has agreed to attend a multi-lateral summit hosted by Thailand.

I won't quote anything from the story but can say that it should be available online for a short period.

Posted by Ian Yarwood on May 9, 2015 16:27

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"Auschwitz and other holocaust camps have no modern equivalent"

Yes, not to the same extent (6M killed) but same principle with less dead has been applied in modern times too.

What happened in Rwanda and even Bosnia just 20y ago has certainly been labeled as genocide by the ICJ.

Between 500.000 and 1M people died in Rwanda and concentration camps were found in Bosnia. Pictures plastered all over the news of prisoners very much resembling those we have seen taken at the Nazi KZ Camps.

Go back 40y and in Cambodia 1 to 3M people died in what were death camps not very different from those run by the Nazis.

Sure what we see here in Thailand are not extermination camps but I wonder what the world will think if we ever hear the truth what really happens to Muslims in Burma.

Posted by Herbert on May 9, 2015 17:11


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