Sunday, September 4, 2016

Thai court sentences Rohingya trafficker to 35 years prison

A MAN who trafficked ethnic Burmese (Myanmar) refugees has been given a stiff 35-year jail sentence by a Thai court, in a case from last year that led to the shocking discovery of jungle camps, mass graves and a major trans-border human trafficking syndicate in the kingdom.

According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, named after the news wire’s charitable arm that focuses on human rights, the man was found guilty of trafficking nearly 100 Rohingyans in January last year.

Sunand was reportedly arrested after police intercepted five vehicles at a checkpoint in the Nakhon Si Thammarat province, which were carrying 98 men, women, and children who appeared “thin and tired” on Jan 11, 2015.

Nearly half of those being trafficked, or 42 of them, were boys and girls younger than 14 while one adult passenger was found dead.

Police used data from mobile phones seized from the drivers of the vehicles and bank transactions linking the man also known as Ko Mit Saengthong to a trafficking syndicate as evidence against him.

Human rights lawyer Janjira Janpaew, who has been monitoring the case, was quoted as saying that Sunand was found guilty of human trafficking, enslavement, and harboring the refugees. He was also fined THB660,000 (US$19,000).

“We didn’t think that the court was going to come down this hard, with 35 years. The punishment was more than we had expected,” Janjira was quoted as saying

The could also sentenced two others, Suriya Yodrak and Warachai Chadathong, to a year in prison for the complicity in the offences, but cut Suriya’s jail time to six month after he pleaded guilty.

Every year, tens of thousands of Rohingya, who are known as among some of the most persecuted minorities in the world, flee Burma and make perilous journeys in rickety boats to seek refuge in other Southeast Asian countries.

Many have perished in their pursuit of better lives, while others fall victim to human traffickers.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told Burma that the world is very concerned about the tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees who have been living for more than four years in camps in northern Rakhine state after fleeing violence from the Buddhist majority.

“They deserve hope,” Ban said at a joint news conference Tuesday with Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ban is in Myanmar to attend peace talks aimed at ending half a century of conflict between the government and the country’s many armed ethnic minority groups. The talks began Wednesday in Naypyitaw, the capital. About 2,000 delegates and guests are expected to attend the opening ceremony.