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Trafficking survivor says more than 500 killed in camps

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Trafficking survivor says more than 500 killed in camps
The Nation / Phuket Gazette


PHUKET: Kuramia, a migrant, paid out 95,000 baht in ransom to save his nephew Kazim, who was being held at a border camp. But he never saw him alive. His nephew’s was among 26 bodies recently exhumed from a mass-grave site in Songkhla’s Sadao district.

A migrant who escaped that tragic fate has told police he saw a trafficker named Arnua and his henchmen beat Kazim to death. Speaking via an interpreter on condition of anonymity, this survivor said he had heard that more than 500 victims were killed at various camps holding human-trafficking or kidnap victims along the Thai-Malaysian borders.

“I’ve also heard that thousands of Rohingya migrants were at those camps waiting for promised jobs or for ransom to arrive,” he said.

This survivor said he was lured out of Myanmar’s Rakhine state six months ago by an offer to find him a job in Malaysia. He ended up in the same camp as Kazim, where between 700 and 800 migrants were held.

“My mum had to sell our family’s land to pay for my ransom. That’s why I am still safe,” he said.

Kuramia said when Arnua first contacted him, he agreed to pay 95,000 baht ransom in exchange for Kazim’s freedom.

“But after I transferred the money, he went quiet. Then about 15 days later, he asked for 120,000 baht more,” Kuramia lamented.

He said as he did not have any more money, he decided to lodge a complaint with police in Thailand’s Nakhon Sri Thammarat province.

Kuramia said he was told later that after he made the complaint, Arnua and his henchmen had bludgeoned Kazim to death.

Because the survivor had come forward to testify as a witness, police issued an arrest warrant for Arnua who was then taken into custody.

Further investigation into the case led to the campsite in Sadao, and also to the mass gravesite where many corpses were uncovered.

The survivor from the camp said that during his time there, between 17 and 20 people were killed.

“They were either shot or clubbed to death,” he said.

He said victims whose relatives could not afford the ransom would be fatally attacked or left to die.

Assistant National Police Commissioner Gen Jarumporn Suramanee yesterday said most bodies exhumed from the campsite were already skeletons and only six were decaying remains.

“There were no traces of injury. So, we believe many might have died of disease or malnutrition,” he said.

He also said it remained unclear at this point whether the bodies were those of Rohingya.

“But judging by what we could see, these bodies should belong to Asians,” he said.

Gen Jarumporn said the bodies were now laid with heads to the North in line with religious rituals.

Police spokesman Lt Gen Prawut Thavornsiri said Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan had made it clear the culprits in this case must be brought to justice.

National Police Commissioner Gen Som Poonpanmoung had already assigned Deputy National Police Commissioner Gen Jakthip Chaichinda to head a special investigation team.

“This team will go to the South to solve this case,” Gen Prawut said.

According to the survivor who was a witness in Kazim’s case, a Thai couple known only as Bang Chee and Farida owned the camp in which he and Kazim had been held.

“They came to the camp to check the number of victims and the amount of ransom,” the survivor said.

Meanwhile, police in Tak province are trying to locate two Myanmar females reportedly lured to the Thai side and held at a plantation in Ban Huai Nok Lae.

The victims, aged 13 and 25, only contacted their family once since leaving their border village with a man last week. Their family has told authorities that this man was very likely a human trafficker.

Deputy Government Spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Prime Minister Prayut would order tough punishment for officials involved in the human trafficking of Rohingya. Article 44 of the interim charter might be enforced if the premier deemed it necessary, he said.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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