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Suspected leader of human trafficking ring arrested in Thailand

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Authorities in Thailand have captured the suspected leader of a human trafficking gang. Forty-two-year-old Ko Myo, from Myanmar later confessed to selling some migrants from his homeland into slavery on Thai fishing boats. He's suspected of possibly murdering as many as seven people, a Thai official said.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Myo was shot and captured at a rubber plantation in southern Surat Thani during a raid by the Department of Special Investigation and local police. There had been increasing international concern over the trafficking of Myanmar migrants in Thailand's lucrative fishing industry. The nation remains one of several sources of human slavery. The ongoing crisis could incur sanctions from the United States.

A Reuters investigation published last month found human smugglers selling some Rohingya Muslims into slavery on Thai fishing boats. Countless Rohingya have fled Myanmar in recent months after violence with Buddhists, which is Myanmar's majority religion.

"The murder charge is under further investigation, and it will be a time-consuming process to verify the bodies," and so Ko Myo will face human trafficking charges first. A senior official in the human trafficking division of the DSI said Komvich Padhanarath, which is part of the Justice Ministry, verified this. Komvich said Ko Myo had confessed to trafficking and murder but not rape.

Ko Myo was named in a report by the Environmental Justice Foundation, a London-based non-government body funded by environmental advocacy groups, which called him a trafficker and implicated him in murder and rape.

Myanmar authorities will be contacted to identify other gang members and help apprehend brokers there, Komvich added.

Rohingya who could not pay for their passage were handed by brokers to traffickers, who sometimes sold the men as indentured servants on farms or into slavery on Thai fishing boats.
Thai naval security forces may also had been involved in the people smuggling. The navy denied the charge, but the U.S. State Department said the Thai government should look into the allegations.

An annual State Department report monitoring global efforts to combat modern-day slavery over the past four years has kept Thailand on its "Tier-2 Watch List," a notch above the worst offending nations such as North Korea. A drop to Tier 3 can trigger sanctions, including the blocking of World Bank aid.

In related news, around 261 Rohingya tried to escape from the center at Phang Nga this week but failed, although 30 managed on Friday to break out of a police station in Songkhla, also in the south, police said.

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