BANGKOK (AFP) – More than a dozen Thai government officials – including senior policemen and a navy officer – are being prosecuted for human trafficking, junta officials said Friday, as they vowed “zero tolerance” of the trade.
Thailand has long been a regional hub for modern day slavery with officials accused of not doing enough to halt the trade and even being active participants.
In June the United States dumped Thailand to the bottom of its list of countries accused of failing to tackle human trafficking.
The kingdom’s junta, which took over in a May coup, has vowed to crack down on the trade and said Friday that they had launched a string of prosecutions against senior officials.
Deputy Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai insisted the arrests – which included police officers with the ranks of colonel and lieutenant colonel – were proof that Thailand’s generals were serious about pursuing officials involved in the trade.
“At the least this is an indication of how earnest and determined we are in trying to enforce the law and apprehend the perpetrators,” he told reporters.
Songsak Saicheua, a foreign ministry official, said at least 15 police officers were facing prosecution, alongside a Royal Thai Navy officer, two local administration officials and a social worker.
Many of those trafficked through Thailand are Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar, described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. Thousands of Rohingya have fled deadly communal unrest in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state since 2012.