Thai trafficking case opens with 90 suspects on Thursday. It’s the largest human trafficking trial in Thailand’s history…
Lt. Gen. Manas Kongoaen and 89 other defendants are standing trial in Bangkok on trans-national trafficking rings in Myanmar and Malaysia via Thailand. The trial began with testimony from a Rohingya witness who told the horrific story of suffering at the hands of the criminals. “Both hands were tied with rope and we were forced to board the vessel, walk down to the second deck and sit on a cramped floor.” That is how Roshiduila described the beginning of his 5-day trip from Myanmar to Ranong a year ago.
He said–with the help of an interpreter, that Hashimyuila was the broker who lured the victims into the trafficking ring by promising them a better life far the the persecution they were suffering. “Hashimyuila told me and three other friends there were jobs in the construction sector, and each would earn 1,500 ringgit (U.S. $361) a month.” Instead, they were forced to board fishing vessels, and were beaten if they resisted.
Roshiduila was shown photos of seven traffickers, and he identified them as men he had seen at the camps in Ranong.
The defendants include army officers, police authorities, and government officials from Thailand.
Key charges against the defendants include human trafficking involving international crimes, illegally holding others and concealing bodies. The human trafficking charges carry a sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of up to 1 million baht (U.S. $28,469), if convicted. Manas and the scores of co-defendants were chained at the ankles as they sat together on benches in the courtroom during the first day of their trial.
The arrests occurred last year as Thailand began to crackdown on illegal immigration, triggered by the gruesome discovery of 32 bodies of undocumented migrants in the a jungle near Malaysia. Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar go to south Thailand trying to escape unbearable conditions by fleeing illegally into Malaysia.
A U.S.-based human rights advocacy group has concerns regarding the trial. Amy Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights, said, “Pongsirin is a key witness in this case, and the fact that he fled Thailand in advance of this trial, fearing for his life, is deeply concerning. We’ve talked to other witnesses who are also afraid—and for good reason. Witnesses in this case are testifying against members of the Thai Army, Navy, Police, the Internal Security Operation Command and others,” she added.
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