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 operation, which began in May and lasted until 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 begin from Koh Song, a Myanmar island situated near Ranong in southern Thailand,” Maj-Gen Surachet Hakpal, deputy chief of Thailand’s Tourist Police, said.
“From Ranong, the illegals are taken by bus to Chumphon and Phattalung before continuing their journey to Hatyai.”
From Hatyai, the illegals are 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.
Surachet said most of the illegals were Rohingya and other Myanmar nationals.
He 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 would recruit Myanmar nationals and bring them to Koh Song for a journey which most probably ends in Malaysia as their final destination,” he said.
Surachet said Thai police would step up their efforts to dismantle human trafficking networks operating in the country, including those run by foreigners, and had cooperated with Malaysia to achieve that objective.
He gave an assurance the networks would be crippled in the next three months.
During the operation, the police also 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.
Region Nine deputy police chief Maj-Gen Daoloi Muendech said investigations revealed there were five groups of human trafficking agents currently operating in Myanmar.
“The 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, has issued arrest warrants on those suspected to be involved in human trafficking.
Surachet and Daoloi had earlier 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.