Phuket

Human-trafficking gang arrested attempting to smuggle illegal workers into Phuket

PHUKET: Three human-trafficking suspects were arrested yesterday trying to smuggle 19 illegal Myanmar workers into Phuket.

The men – all Thai nationals – were apprehended at 2am near a checkpoint north of the island in Takuapa, Phang Nga province.

The 19 illegal workers, brought from Ranong, included nine men and 10 women.

“We questioned the driver of the pick-up truck, Chem Taweewat, who told us that he stopped when he saw the checkpoint and told his two accomplices to take the workers around it on foot through the forest,” said Takuapa District Chief Manit Pianthong.

Mr Chem then picked up the workers in the forest past the checkpoint, but they were ambushed by police when the truck got stuck in the rough jungle terrain.

“He [Mr Chem] passed through the checkpoint and then drove back into the forest to pick up the laborers, but what he didn’t know was that we were waiting for him,” said Mr Manit, adding that when the truck got stuck, it was an added bonus for police.

“We didn’t even have to chase them down.”

Mr Manit declined to explain how police knew Mr Chem and his colleagues were smuggling the illegal Myanmar workers, saying he could not reveal the details for security reasons.

The three traffickers and the Myanmar nationals were all taken to Takuapa Police Station for further questioning.

This is the third group of illegal immigrants arrested since early October in Southern Thailand.

On November 8, a modified trawler was apprehended off Koh Nok in Ranong carrying 80 Bangladeshis and 219 Rohingya, including women and children (story here).

Last week a second group of 86 Rohingya refugees believed to have been smuggled from Myanmar were detained in a rubber plantation in Kuraburi, Phang Nga province (story here).

The peak season for smuggling illegal immigrants from Myanmar occurs between November and April when storms over the Andaman Sea dissipate, making it easier for trafficking boats to make the trip (story here).

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

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