Sunday, December 13, 2015

"A good person has no place in this country"

On November 16, Thailand's national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda approved the resignation of Pol Maj Gen Paween Pongsirin, who headed the police investigation into the trafficking of Rohingya migrants. Maj. Gen. Paween had led an investigation into a mass grave containing at least 36 bodies that was discovered in May near the Thai border with Malaysia. Over 90 people have been arrested, including a Thai army general (Lt Gen Manas Kongpan) and powerful regional officials charged with trafficking. Mr. Paween said that the arrests were made after his probe had found regular payments of up to $380,000 to the accounts of a number of key officials. Mr. Paween was expected to be a witness at the trials of the defendants but he quit his post after refusing a transfer to Thailand's deep south, fearing retaliation from traffickers and corrupt local authorities.

According to the New York Times, Thailand's southern border with Malaysia is a hotbed of human trafficking. Rohingya and migrants from Bangladesh are held in camps or offshore until their families can pay ransom for passage to Malaysia. Conditions in the camps can be brutal and mass graves have been found on both sides of the Thai-Malaysian border. In addition, Thailand faces an insurgency in the south and Mr. Paween feared the violence could provide cover for an attack on him. When he asked for another posting he was refused. He resigned from the police rather than take up the new post allegedly after receiving death threats and fled to Australia where he is seeking asylum. Human rights groups like Human Rights Watch ask what will happen with the trial of the traffickers. "A good person has no place in this country" a columnist wrote in a Thai paper after Mr. Paween's resignation.

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