Three Thai nationals wanted by Malaysian authorities in connection with human trafficking have been arrested and face extradition proceedings, the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) said on Thursday.
Prayuth Phetkhun, OAG spokesman, said the trio are among nine suspects being sought by Malaysian investigators in Perlis state for alleged involvement in the trafficking of Rohingya people in 2015.
Mr Phetkhun said Malaysian investigators found that nine members of the trafficking ring are Thai nationals — eight men and one woman — and asked Thai authorities in early 2017 to extradite them to Malaysia to face charges.
The Criminal Court approved warrants for the arrest of the nine suspects and three have been detained, said Mr Phetkhun. They were identified as Jehpa Lapi-ee, Arun Kaewfainok and Boonyen Nesalaeh.
He said the prosecutors had asked the court to consider Jehpa’s extradition and will seek the extradition proceedings against the other two as soon as they are handed over by police.
According to Mr Phetkhun, the case in Malaysia is similar to the 2015 human trafficking case in Thailand which was linked to Lt Gen Manas Kongpan, who was convicted for his role in the trafficking of Rohingya migrants to jungle camps in the South.
Lt Gen Kongpan died of a suspected heart attack at the Medical Correctional Hospital in June this year while serving his jail sentence.
Sutthi Sukying, a prosecutor attached to Executive Director’s Office of International Affairs 1, said Thai authorities do not usually extradite Thai nationals to face charges in a foreign country unless there is an extradition treaty.
However, he said the OAG has decided to initiate the extradition proceedings in this case because human trafficking is a serious offence.
Thirach Limpaya-raya, a prosecutor in charge of the extradition case, said he expects the proceeding to take some time and even if the court decides to extradite, the suspects can appeal.
He said the detainees have initially denied the charges.
Pol Gen Roy Ingkhapairoj, deputy police chief, said on Thursday the first suspect was arrested on 21st October and the two others on 26th October in line with the arrest warrants approved by the court.
They are wanted in connection with the 2015 trafficking of Rohingya people in Pelis state. Some of the victims died during torture and were buried near their detention camp, he said.
In Thailand, the case against Lt Gen Kongpan, known as the mass Rohingya graves case, is believed to be one of the country’s largest human-trafficking cases.
He was among 103 people convicted in the case in a massive crackdown following the discovery of more than 30 graves on Khao Kaew mountain in tambon Padang Besar in Songkhla’s Sadao district near the Thai-Malaysian border in May 2015.
The bodies, found close to a makeshift camp, were suspected to be Rohingya Muslim migrants who were possibly victims of human trafficking. Lt Gen Kongpa was sentenced to 82 years for human trafficking and another 40 years for money laundering.