BANGKOK: An arrest warrant has been issued for a high-ranking army officer over human trafficking, Thai police said Tuesday, making him the first military figure in Thailand to be implicated in the grim trade in migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh.
In recent weeks more than 3,500 Rohingya Muslims, a persecuted minority in Myanmar, and Bangladeshi economic migrants have arrived on Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian soil, prompting a regional migration crisis.
Rights groups have long accused officials in junta-ruled Thailand of turning a blind eye to human trafficking, or even complicity in the trade—but until now no army official has been implicated.
Thai national police chief Somyot Poompanmoung said Tuesday a court had issued an arrest warrant for Lieutenant General Manas Kongpan for his involvement in human trafficking.
“Police are confident in the evidence,” Somyot told reporters ahead of a press conference about Thailand’s anti-trafficking operations at police headquarters in Bangkok.
“I am confident he will not flee,” he said, adding that police had not yet contacted the military about handing Manas over to them.