11 July 2024

Chulalongkorn University’s Office of the Student Affairs has announced that it will propose that an honorary doctorate in public administration from the university be conferred upon exiled Pol Maj-Gen Paween Pongsirin for his outstanding role in exposing the human trafficking network in southern Thailand over six years ago.

The former deputy commissioner of the 8th Region Provincial Police Bureau and chief of the anti-human trafficking investigation is currently living in exile in Australia, after he escaped from Thailand when he was tipped off that his life was in danger.

Pol Maj-Gen Paween’s investigation led to 153 people, including local businessmen, officials and politicians and military officers, including Lt-Gen Manus Kongpan, a specialist attached to the Royal Army, being implicated in the trafficking racket. Lt-Gen Manus was indicated, among others, in a military court and convicted. Manus died while serving his prison term.

The student affairs office stated that Paween should be honoured as a “true policeman” for his resourcefulness and conscientiousness, who was persecuted by those in power until he had to seek asylum abroad.

It cited business tycoon, Dhanin Chearavanont of the Charoen Pokphand Group, who was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2020, saying Pol Maj-Gen Paween should be accorded the same honour.

Pol Maj-Gen Paween’s outstanding investigation and his subsequent ordeal was raised during the general parliamentary debate last Friday, by Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome, as he cited the testimony given to Australian authorities by the officer when he applied for asylum there.

A summary of Paween’s investigation shows that the human trafficking racket in southern Thailand went on long before he was ordered to lead the investigation, after security forces stumbled upon a jungle camp in Sadao district of Songkhla province, near the Malaysian border, where Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh were detained, while ransoms, to be paid by the victims’ relatives, were being negotiated.

Brokers involved in this modern slave trade included those in Malaysia, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

A mass grave containing the remains of about 30 people was also found near the camp.

According to the investigation report, male Rohingya, who were unable to pay their ransoms, were sold as slave labour on Thai fishing boats and women were sold into the sex trade or systematically raped.