PHUKET: Phuket police have arrested a Burmese man suspected of organizing the human smuggling ring that led to the death of 54 Burmese migrant workers on April 9.
He is also suspected of involvement in the execution of former Kathu Police officer Decho Kaewnabon last Wednesday.
Speaking after the Governor Meets the Press conference at Phuket Provincial Hall this morning, Phuket Police Commander Maj Gen Apirak Hongthong revealed the arrest of a Burmese man identified only as “Wan”, who is currently in detention at Kathu Police Station.
The suspect, in his 40s, is thought to have lived in Phuket for 14 years and has an outstanding arrest warrant issued against him in 2005 by the Phuket Provincial Court for the alleged sale of ya bah (methamphetamine). That warrant was issued at the request of the Tah Chat Chai Police, Gen Apirak said.
“Wan” tops a list of three Burmese suspects wanted by Burmese police in connection with their investigation into the April 9 deaths of 54 unregistered migrant workers who suffocated in a cold-storage truck in Ranong, he said. The truck was en route to Phuket.
“We still have outstanding arrest warrants for two other Burmese nationals and two Thais involved in the illegal transport of migrant laborers,” he added.
Gen Apirak, who was head of the Ranong Provincial Police when the incident occurred, said, “We have already caught six people in Ranong who were involved in the deaths of the 54 Burmese. We believe Wan is also involved in the murder of Sia Decho [former Kathu Police Sgt Decho Kaewnabon], who died last week.”
After the death of the 54 Burmese, police focused on Sia Decho as a key witness in their efforts to uncover more “agents” in the smuggling rings used to bring unregistered Burmese workers to Phuket, he said.
The nature and timing of Sia Decho’s death seem to indicate the murder was a silence killing, he said.
However, at least two Thai-language news sources have reported that Sia Decho was among those named on a provincial government blacklist of “influential figures”. Similar lists were drawn up before the Thaksin government’s 2003 War on Drugs, during which there was a surge in the rate of unsolved murders across the country.
Many of the victims were thought to have been killed by people high up in the drug trade, government officers said at the time.
“We already know who killed Sia Decho and we are hunting for him now. There are still many Thai agents working in the illegal transport of foreign workers to Phuket. We need to stamp out this trade, but it is going to take time,” Gen Apirak said.
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