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Billionaire trafficker arrested over mass graves case that saw Rohingya shipped to Phuket

Billionaire trafficker arrested over mass graves case that saw Rohingya shipped to Phuket

PHUKET: A baht-billionaire allegedly involved in the human trafficking of Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar in the notorious case leading to the discovery of mass graves of the migrants on the Thai side of the Malaysian border four years ago has been handed over to Thai authorities after being arrested in Cambodia.

By The Phuket News

Monday 4 November 2019, 11:55AM

The trafficking ring saw Rohingya shipped to Phuket as well as Bangkok and to the South in the hope of being smuggled into Malaysia, Immigration Bureau Deputy Chief Maj Gen Surapong Chaichan explained at a special press conference held in Bangkok yesterday (Nov 3).

The suspect, Supat “Kotok” Santipiyakul, 59, was handed over to Thai immigration officers at the Aranyaprathet Border Checkpoint on Saturday (Nov 2), Gen Surapong said.

Supat was wanted on arrest warrant no. 401/2015 issued by the Nathawee District Court in Songkhla on Aug 11, 2015 for charges of trafficking persons under the age of 15, helping aliens to enter to the Kingdom illegally, and kidnapping, Gen Surapong noted.

Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division Police (ATPD) was informed that Supat had fled to Cambodia, and informed Sakaeo immigration officers to coordinate with Cambodian Police to seek his arrest.

Supat was allegedly involved in the human trafficking ring that saw the discovery of some 30 graves on a mountain in Padang Besar in Sadao district, Songkhla, near the Malaysian border in 2015. The bodies were found close to a makeshift camp and were believed to be Rohingya migrants, victims of human trafficking.

The case involved 103 defendants, one of them disgraced former army adviser and Lt Gen Manas Kongpan, Gen Surapong explained.

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Charges were dismissed against 40 defendants, but jail terms were handed down to 62 defendants charged with their roles in the human trafficking operation.

Last Thursday (Oct 31), the Appeal Court rejected an appeal by the defendants and increased jail sentences to around 80 years for defendants, including Manas and several local southern politicians.

The Appeal Court did not change the stiffest 94-year term, given to Myanmar national Soe Naing, who had been found guilty of human trafficking and assault causing death.

The court also convicted some of the defendants who were earlier acquitted. They included former army captain Wisut Bunnag of the Internal Security Operations Command in Chumphon province, and former Satun provincial councillor Anas Hayeemasae. (See story here.)

News of the arrest comes as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday engaged in talks with US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross over the US announcing it will suspend benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Thailand, a move that is estimate will cost Thailand $1.3 billion (around B39.2 billion) of benefits.

On Oct 25, the US said it would suspend under the GSP scheme on the grounds that Thailand had not yet done enough to address workers’ rights in the Country, especially in the seafood industry, which is served by huge numbers of foreign migrant workers. (See stories here and here.)

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