PHUKET: A Phang Nga police officer has been charged with human trafficking following his reported involvement in a Rohingya woman being held captive and raped repeatedly for days, Kuraburi District Police Superintendent Weerasil Kwanseng confirmed to the Phuket Gazette this morning.
The arrest of Sgt Maj Weerayuth Feuangfu (listed here) follows a 25-year-old Rohingya woman reporting to police that she was repeatedly raped by a Rohingya trafficker on their way to Malaysia late last month (story here).
Sgt Weerayuth has also been charged with abusing his position as a police officer.
“He is believed to have been the person who drove the vehicle that collected the reported rape victim, her two children, and two other women from the government-run shelter in Phang Nga where the Rohingya refugees were staying,” Col Weerasil explained.
The arrest may be the first of a Royal Thai Police officer for human trafficking, he noted.
“Because he is a police officer, his punishment will be double if he is found guilty,” Col Weerasil noted.
Section 13 of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act BE 2551 (see here) stipulates that any government official found engaging in human trafficking is subject to literally “twice” the punishment for any breaches of the Act.
And any officials specifically empowered to enforce the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, but who are found engaging in human trafficking themselves, are subject to literally “thrice” the punishment.
“We are still investigating the human-trafficking network,” Col Weerasil said.
“I have been specifically ordered by Phang Nga Provincial Police Commander Chalit Kaewyarat to arrest anyone involved in this case, no matter who they might be,” he added.
The Rohingya woman and her two daughters will be transferred to another Department of Social Development and Welfare shelter for their protection, the Gazette was told yesterday (story here).
Despite officials openly recognizing for more than a decade that an estimated 100,000 Burmese illegal immigrants live in Phuket, most performing manual labor at below minimum wages, human trafficking to and from the island is rarely investigated.
It was not until 54 men and women, including an 8-year-old girl, died of suffocation while being transported to Phuket in the back of a refrigeration truck in 2008, that Thai authorities moved to press serious charges against traffickers.
For the 54 deaths, four Thai nationals were sentenced to between three and 10 years’ imprisonment. None of the four sentenced were identified as Thai officials (story here).
— Chutharat Plerin
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