Thailand convicts general of trafficking at mass trial

by 9:30 AM 0 comments
A court in Thailand has found a former general guilty of human trafficking at a landmark trial in Bangkok.
Manas Kongpan is among more than 40 people convicted in the trafficking of Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims, a persecuted minority fleeing Myanmar.
More than 100 defendants are on trial on charges including trafficking, kidnapping and murder.
Muslim Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar for years, paying people smugglers to help them escape.
The general was arrested in June 2015, was seen as part of an effort by Thailand to close down a human smuggling route through the country.
The judge found him guilty of human trafficking and organised transnational crime.
He and the other defendants found guilty have yet to be sentenced.
In 2009, the general told the BBC that Thailand treated migrants humanely after he was accused of ordering more than 1,000 Rohingyas to be set adrift at sea on boats with no engines.
Correspondents say he is the first member of the military in army-ruled Thailand to be implicated in the trafficking of migrants.
In 2015, thousands of refugees were left stranded at sea as they tried to escape through southern Thailand and on to Malaysia and other destinations.
The crisis escalated after international pressure forced the Thai authorities to crack down on the smuggling networks.
This led to the smugglers abandoning the refugees, leaving them on their sea and land routes with no neighbouring country willing to take them in.
The current trial was sparked by the discovery of mass graves of refugees in jungle camps near the Thai-Malaysian border.
Most of those indicted are from Thailand but several citizens of Myanmar (also called Burma) and Bangladesh are also being held.
A senior policeman who led an investigation into human trafficking in Thailand, Major General Paween Pongsirin, fled to Australia fearing his life was in danger from influential figures implicated in trafficking in his country.
The Rohingya - a distinct Muslim ethnic group who are effectively stateless - have been fleeing Myanmar for decades with Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia the most desired destinations.
While they say they are descendants of Arab traders who have been in the region for generations, Myanmar`s governments insist they are not a genuine ethnic group but rather Bengali migrants.
Among the refugees stranded during the 2015 crisis were also many economic migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

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