Slave traders arrested in Thailand

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The Democratic Voice of Burma has reported that Thai authorities recently arrested three leading members of a Burmese human trafficking gang. The gang is responsible for selling hundreds of its fellow countrymen into slavery and murdering dozens of people.

According to the Burmese embassy in Bangkok, forces from the Royal Thai Police and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) arrested the group’s leader Ko Myo after capturing one of his top aides on 31 July. Another of the gang’s henchmen was also arrested in a separate action.

Naing Htun is an official at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok. He accompanied police during  the raid.

“[Ko Myo’s ring] trafficked an estimated 700 people from Burma into Thailand and sold them to fishing boats and he apparently killed those who refused to be sold. The murders were committed at his home and on the boats. He kept the blood stains of his victims on his house’s wall as well as the ropes he used to hang them with dangling from the ceiling to show as example for the newcomers,” Mr Htun said.

“His gang also raped and murdered a Karen girl and dumped her body in the sea. The body was later recovered and his aide confessed to taking part in her killing along with Ko Myo.”

The group is believed to have been behind approximately 40 murders and operated around the ports in Trang province’s Kantang district. The area serves as a major hub for Thailand’s massive fishing industry, which employs thousands of Burmese migrants. Some are believed to have been trafficked and sold into captivity.

According to the director of the Myanmar Association in Thailand, Kyaw Thaung, Ko Myo was able to operate without getting caught for more than a decade because of his connections with local authorities. A former Thai immigration official had ‘adopted’ Ko Myo.

“This status allowed him to be more ruthless. According to testimonials from migrants in the area, he made about 800,000 baht (approx. US$25,000) per month [trafficking] migrants at the port,” Mr Thaung said.

The synod’s Commission for Mission Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit has been campaigning for some time to end human rights abuses in the seafood industry. JIM director, Dr Mark Zirnsak said the arrests are a good sign, but it was important to ensure more is done.

“We need to see them prosecuted as well,”Dr Zirnsak said. “We also need to see this type of police action happening much more regularly before we can be certain the situation is really turning around.”

Dr Zirnsak encouraged church members to continue writing to seafood importers to make sure human trafficking, slavery and forced labour were not being used to produce the seafood coming into Australia. The four companies in question – Red Funnel, Supafin Seafood, Holt Seafood (with brands Geiko, Big Island, Mikado, and Pelagic) and Poulos Bros (with brands Seatraders, all seas, Peter’s Fish Market and Storm Bay) – are yet to reply to any letters.

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