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Thai PM Invites Asylum Seeking Trafficking Investigator To Tell All

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
BANGKOK: Thailand's junta leader has urged runaway human trafficking whistle-blower Paween Pongsirin to return to Bangkok from Melbourne, promising to punish any influential figures who threatened to kill him.

"Tell me now, who threatened you. It is no matter how big they are, I will have them punished," said Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former army chief and now military-appointed prime minister who toppled Thailand's democratically-elected government last year.

The comments came as Thai police set up an inquiry into explosive claims by former police major-general Paween that have shattered the junta's assertions that it has thwarted trafficking across its borders.

Mr Prayuth told reporters that Mr Paween had damaged Thailand's standing by fleeing overseas.

"My question is whether he still loves his country. He was born in this land, why has he become estranged from it?"

Mr Paween told reporters after arriving in Melbourne last week, where he plans to seek political asylum, that many soldiers, police and politicians are involved in Thailand's human trafficking networks.

"Unfortunately those bad police and bad military are the ones that have power," he said.

Mr Paween said he was threatened when he headed a task-force set up earlier in 2015 after the discovery of mass graves in the mountains of southern Thailand.

For years Thai authorities had denied any involvement of corrupt officials in the trafficking of thousands of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis, who took to boats across the Bay of Bengal to try to reach Malaysia.

Images of mass graves in the mountains of southern Thailand and starving and distressed families on boats shocked the world.

Mr Paween's taskforce exposed networks of traffickers and led to the arrest of more than 90 people, including politicians, government officials, police and a high-ranking army officer.

Police have said that Mr Paween can testify via video-link from Melbourne in a trial of some of the defendants in Thailand next week.

Mr Paween was forced to wind down his investigations in September and he was transferred abruptly to Thailand's southern provinces, where Muslim rebels have been waging a decade-long insurgency.

He said he would be killed by traffickers and senior police involved in the trade there, and quit the force rather than take up his new post.

Comments

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Thailand as usual is in denial. Human trafficking, slave labour, forced prostitution, loan sharking and drug trafficking all require logistics like having a supply, transportation and a demand.

For these operations to run smoothly, free from investigation or scrutiny, many official must be paid to turn a blind eye. In many cases it is way more than just turning a blind eye with officials themselves running these rackets.

If a whistle-blower stands up he is immediately asked "Are you Thai?" as if it is an act of treason to reveal these illegal and despicable deeds.

All we ever hear is how "the country might be damaged" or "Thailand's reputation will suffer" etc. They cannot see or understand Thailand is seen as being endemically corrupt by the majority of foreigners. All the excuses, face saving and white-washing are just pathetic.

Until Thailand can reform the patronage system and the police/military, nothing will change. Until all citizens are treated equally under the law, Thailand will remain a corrupt country where nepotism and self interest prevail.

Posted by Arun Muruga on December 15, 2015 13:12

Editor Comment:

Indeed. Nationalism is being misused by people who ask ''Are you Thai?'' when that question should be asked of the corrupt. Anyone who benefits from trafficking engages in a crime against humanity. Are they Thai? In some cases, sadly, yes.

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Almost sounds like a trap. And the question of, "He was born in this land, why has he become estranged from it?" is already answered by Mr. Paween;it's because of "influential figures who threatened to kill him."
I mean, really, transferred to the south where his investigation did the most damage and murders are an almost daily occurence? This man has shown more courage and morals than 99% of Thailand. I don't doubt that he is right about this.

Posted by Notin Thailand on December 15, 2015 16:19

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Maybe the fact he has fled DOES indicate a love for the country as he is more likely to be heard from a safe place. No mysterious 'death in custody' this way and he will be free to air the dirty linen others want to quash.

Given the blatant attempt to put his life in danger by transferring him to the Deep South and trying to quash the investigation its a pretty good indicator that something was wrong.

Posted by Mister Ree on December 15, 2015 16:30

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A brave man with a difficult decision to make. Does he trust and return? After all, he stood long enough in the fire to prove he loved his country before he finally decided he could be more effective from outside Thailand.

Good luck to him. A thousand more of his calibre and..........who knows.

Posted by Alan on December 16, 2015 05:07

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If anything, Thailand needs more brave people like K. Paween.

People who are willing to open the Pandora's box of corruption, collusion and injustice.

Thailand as a nation should provide a safe channel for people like K. Paween to do so without having to flee their beloved home country.

To ask him if he's Thai is the most graphic indicator of the endemic, ultra-nationalistic sentiment among an alarmingly influential part of Thai society.

Such mindset is blind to justice, fairness and a righteous mind.

It's astonishing how those who claim K.Paween is causing damage to Thailand are so detached from reality not to understand it's their own reaction to this incident that is crushing Thai reputation.

Does truth have a place in Thai society according to the current leaders ?

Posted by Herbert on December 16, 2015 10:11

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I am actually surprised that Prayut said that. I thought he would have been more savvy in damage control than this chin-leading response.

Posted by geoff on December 16, 2015 14:33


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