6 June 2024

The Royal Thai Police, today (Saturday), explained that it has handled the Rohingya human trafficking case with fairness to all the suspects who have been arrested, with none of them being granted bail or given privileges during the police investigation.

Pol Gen Roy Inkhapairote, the deputy national police chief, issued the explanatory statement in response to allegations, in recent interview given to Al Jazeera TV by exiled Pol Maj-Gen Paween Pongsirin, former deputy commissioner of Region 8 Provincial Police, that Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, then the defence minister, had interfered in the police probe by demanding that an important suspect, Lt-Gen Manat Kongpanm, an army advisor, be granted bail.

Lt-Gen Manat was sentenced to 82 years in prison. He died in while incarcerated in June 2021.

Fearing for his life for his role in handling the probe, Pol Maj-Gen Paween fled to Australia and subsequently sought political asylum there.

Pol Gen Roy said that the case is regarded as very serious, with the maximum penalty being death, and with so many suspects, the Royal Thai Police made sure that they were all treated equally.

The case dates back in 2015, when security forces stumbled upon a jungle camp in the Sadao district of the southern province of Songkhla, where hundreds of illegal Rohingya immigrants were detained. The remains of dead immigrants were also found buried around the camp.

The deputy police chief also explained that, since the investigation was in the form of a committee, with the involvement of police officers senior to Pol Maj-Gen Paween and public prosecutors, it was not possible that a single officer could be pressured to grant bail to any of the suspects.

He insists that Pol Maj-Gen Paween, himself, had no power to grant bail, noting that the government had attached importance to the case because Thailand was then on Tier 3 of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.

“Pol Maj-Gen Paween was just one of the police investigators and had no decisive authority to issue an order regarding the case,” said Pol Gen Roy, adding that the sole authority then was Pol Gen Aek Angsunanon, the deputy national police chief as was.

Pol Gen Roy said that Pol Maj-Gen Paween’s allegation was one-sided and unfounded, adding that the Royal Thai Police had clarified the matter before, as he questioned Pol Maj-Gen Paween’s motives in raising matters which could damage the country’s reputation.

He disclosed that 155 suspects were implicated but only 122 have been arrested. Of these, two have died during the inquiry.

Among those arrested were 5 army officers, 4 police officers, 12 local administration officials and a health official.

Of the 30 who are still at large, he said two were arrested in March and the police are continue to hunt for the rest.