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Governor of Ranong, Suriyan Kanjanasilp, who spoke with <i>Phuketwan</i> today

Border Governor Set to Repel Traffickers

Friday, September 11, 2015
PHUKET: Human trafficking near Thailand is likely to resume soon but authorities are preparing to make raids and arrests to combat the menace, the Governor of Ranong, Suriyan Kanjanasilp, told Phuketwan today.

Ranong, the Andaman province on the Thai-Myanmar (Burma) border, has often been connected to trafficking in recent years - mostly as a return gateway where boatpeople being deported could be handed back to waiting people-smugglers in what became known as ''soft deportations.''

Sources have told Phuketwan that the traffickers, facing a crackdown in Thailand, are likely to try to structure a new system using islands off the coast of Myanmar as a base, then probably deploying pickups or small trucks to carry stateless Rohingya south towards Malaysia.

Landing boatloads of Rohingya along the coast of Thailand is considered too risky for now, although recent flooding in Rakhine state and the lack of aid from the Myanmar government is expected to bring an increased number of Rohingya who are desperate to flee the racism and hatred they encounter in their homeland.

The discovery of mass graves around secret jungle camps on both sides of the Thai-Malaysia border earlier this year means a change in strategy is needed.

Traffickers are now likely to try to carry their ''customers'' across the porous Malaysian border as speedily as possible, holding them in safe houses in Malaysia rather than in the Thai jungle.

Authorities are aware that the islands off Thailand and southern Burma pose an alternative base for traffickers, Ranong's Governor Suriyan said today.

''There are 62 islands off the coast of the province,'' the governor said. ''We aim to make sure they are protected.''

Islands further south off Phang Nga province and Satun have frequently been used as secret holding places for boatpeople before being trucked south for sale.

A 24-hour roadblock established by anti-trafficking volunteers near Takuapa in Phang Nga has made travelling the main coast road south impossible for traffickers.

The port of Ranong has a mixed population and the province is home to 180,000 Thais and 90,000 Burmese, with a distinctly tolerant culture all its own.

Preventing Ranong and Thailand being used by traffickers has become a priority, the governor said, with more than 60 people suspected of being involved in people-smuggling being called in twice under the use of the military's powerful Article 44 to be lectured by the Royal Thai Navy and the Army's Internal Operations Security Command on the evils of trading in humans.

''There have been 19 arrests and three more people are being pursued,'' he said.

Phuketwan has also been told by several sources that further arrests have been made in the southern province of Songkhla of at least four military officers, but that their names have yet to be made public.

''We have seized property, houses and vehicles with a total value of 150 million baht from suspected traffickers,'' Governor Suriyan said today. ''Two boats remain under arrest.''

Governor Suriyan was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of the governors of Phuket, Krabi, Ranong, Trang and Phang Nga with the Interior Minister, Anupong Paojinda, who is on a two-day visit to Phuket.

The normal sailing season for Rohingya and Bangladeshis heading to Malaysia begins with the end of the monsoon season in October and lasts through until April.

However, the use of larger boats in recent years extended the trafficking business and made it virtually a year-round operation.

The large amounts of money to be made from selling people is likely to mean there will be attempts to resume business as usual once the weather improves, with smaller operations expected to return first.

Politically, Rohingya in Myanmar are worse off than ever, deprived of citizenship and likely to become the target of even greater genocidal abuses after the national election in November.


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Wednesday October 27, 2021
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