A court in southern Thailand took the bold step of issuing arrest warrants this week for four military officers on human trafficking charges related to the smuggling of Rohingya migrants as the government and justice system refused to let up in its war against human trafficking syndicates.
The arrests were particularly significant because the three Army officers accused – one Colonel and two Captains – are attached to the Internal Operations Security Command (ISOC), a high-level security body chaired by the Prime Minister and whose members come from the military, other security agencies, while some are civilians. The fourth officer being sought is a Commander in the Royal Thai Navy.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has made fighting human trafficking a national priority and has vowed that no one involved, no matter how high they rank or what position they hold, will be spared.
On the same day that the warrants were issued by the court in the southern city of Hat Yai, the Police Commission transferred 31 police colonels in southern Thailand suspected of involvement in human trafficking.
Until this week’s arrest warrants, only one high-ranking army officer, a Major General, had been arrested on human trafficking charges. Nonetheless, Thai courts have issued arrest warrants for 153 suspects and 90 are now in custody, including local politicians, policemen, bureaucrats and members of organized criminal syndicates.
All the arrests stem from the discovery in May of mass graves of Rohingya human trafficking victims near the border with Malaysia, where they and others had been held in virtual prison camps for ransom.
In its fight against human-trafficking, Thailand took the lead and convened a regional meeting on 29 May, attended by 15 countries, to try and solve the trafficking problems at its roots.
The Thai government has also passed new and tougher human trafficking laws, strengthened enforcement, increased protection to victims and witnesses and stepped up services for those rescued from traffickers.
For more information and updates about Thailand’s policies and actions against trafficking in persons and related issues, visit www.thaianti-humantraffickingaction.org