PHUKET: Police announced today the arrest of a fifth suspect in connection with the deaths of 54 Burmese illegal immigrants who suffocated while being transported in the sealed container of a seafood transport truck en route from Ranong to Phuket on April 9.
Police have been issued arrest warrants for seven people alleged to be part of the human-trafficking operation that saw 121 Burmese men and women packed into the truck’s container.
Those arrested are: truck driver Suchon Bunplong; truck owner Damrong Phussadee of Rungruengsup Ltd; owner of Choke Jaroen Pier Jirawat Sopapanwarakul; Weera “Dum” Yingyuad – allegedly the truck driver’s accomplice; and Chalhermchai “Joe” Waritjanpleng, who was arrested in Songkhla province earlier today and suspected of being the “middle man” who co-ordinated the trafficking operation.
The five suspects are being held at Ranong Prison and all have been denied bail, Ranong Provincial Police Superintendent Maj Gen Apirak Hongthong told the Gazette.
He said that Weera had confessed to accompanying Suchon on several trafficking runs and was paid about 10,000 baht each time. Suchon confessed to being paid 80,000 baht per trip, Gen Apirak said.
“Weera told police that he opened the container doors after hearing the immigrants screaming and banging on the walls. On seeing that many of them had died, the two men fled, leaving the immigrants, who waited by the truck until locals discovered them,” he said.
“Arrest warrants have also been issued for Supat Phothong, who is suspected of playing a key role in bringing the immigrants to work in Phuket, and Panchalee Choosuk, who is alleged to have been in charge of counting the immigrants before they were herded into the truck,” he added.
“We are co-ordinating efforts with the anti-human-trafficking division of the police in Myanmar in order to establish who procured the 121 Burmese to bring them to Thailand. The Myanmar police want to photograph the suspects and have the 46 Burmese survivors identify them,” he said.
“We are working very hard to ensure the arrest of all the suspects and to severely punish them as an example to all those involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants,” Gen Apirak added.
Gen Apirak Hongthong was recently promoted to Superintendent of Phuket Provincial Police and is due to take up his post in Phuket on May 1.
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