Announcement of record seizure comes as junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha prepares to speak at United Nations general assembly in New York
By CS Thana
BANGKOK – Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) says it seized a record 60 million baht ($1.6 million) in assets from a trafficking network in September as it sought to clamp down on the smuggling of Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar.
The government’s Public Relations Department announced in a statement Tuesday that it had seized boats, land deeds and cars belonging to the smugglers.
It added that most of the network’s members were still at large.
Of the more than 150 warrants issued in connection with the smuggling of Rohingya, only half have led to arrests, among them a Thai Army captain who turned himself in.
Tuesday’s announcement was the largest haul to date of assets belonging to human trafficking networks. The previous record seizure was in August when AMLO said it had seized bonds and land deeds totalling $1.1 million — also from Rohingya traffickers.
Since 2012, Rohingya — whom the United Nations consider to be the world’s most persecuted ethnic minority — have been fleeing Myanmar in droves, in fear of violence that some human rights groups consider to be state sponsored.
Rights groups estimate that as many as 10 percent of the million-strong ethnic group have fled the country in search of better opportunities in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia.
Thailand is frequently a gateway through which migrants pass on their way south.
Following the discovery of over 30 corpses of Rohingya in jungle camps in southern Thailand on May 1, Thai authorities launched a crackdown on human traffickers, which led to the arrest of numerous suspects including a Thai general.
In the following months, trafficking boats unable to land stayed at sea, provoking a regional humanitarian crisis only solved May 20 when Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to let Rohingya and Bangladeshi come onshore and accept them as refugees.
The announcement comes as junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha prepares to speak at the United Nations general assembly in New York.
A U.S.-based rights group has asked the assembly to take Chan-ocha to task over Thailand’s repression of human rights and public liberties during his Sept. 29. speech, but Chan-ocha has said he intends to focus on his government’s achievements in fighting human trafficking.