Wednesday, December 7

Army link with trafficking not found yet: Thai deputy PM



Amid insistence by different quarters that Thailand must take steps against its army and police officials for involvement in human trafficking, deputy prime minister  denied having found any army personnel’s link with the trade.

“We agree that high ranking officials were involved in trafficking of people. There are police among them. But so far, we haven’t found any army officials to be involved in this,” General Tanasak, who is also the foreign minister of the country, said at press conference during a Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean in Bangkok.

Tanasak said investigation was going on and the government will take action against any army official found to be involved in the crime.

As representatives from 17 countries directly and indirectly affected bythe illegal migration tried to find solutions to the crisis dogging Southeast Asia, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) sought US$6 million to address the issue.

Thailand called the special meeting of senior officials and experts from 17 countries and three international organisations to seek a solution to the migrant situation in the Indian Ocean.

Representatives from Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran are attending the meeting.

Officials from the US, Japan and Switzerland are participating as observers along with officials from international organizations including the UN refugee agency, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and IOM.

Addressing a press conference after opening of the meeting being held at Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel, Tanasak said 44 officials have been arrested for their link with the illegal human trade.

When asked why the Thai government did not act to bust the traffickers’ network although the trade has been continuing for many years, Tanasak said it is very hard to keep eyes on the bordering jungles.

“In some places, it takes three days to cover just 1 kilometre. You can’t see everything well. As a result, air surveillance doesn’t help much.”

He added that it was not a new issue and the incumbent Thai government has been trying its best to stop the human trafficking.

“We are doing it like never done before. Our friends and countries concerned are very happy with our steps.”

Earlier in his opening remarks earlier at the meeting, Tanasak stressed that the issue of irregular maritime migration in the region needs to be addressed in a collective and sustainable manner.

“The influx of irregular migrants in the Indian Ocean has reached an alarming level. Sadly, we have witnessed desperate migrants leaving their homes and risking their lives. The situation has affected various countries in the region. No country can solve this problem alone,” he said, terming the problem, as “more complex than what we are seeing”.

In a meeting between the foreign ministers of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand last week, Malaysia and Indonesia offered temporary shelter for the stranded migrants provided that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community.

“On our part, Thailand remains ready as always to provide humanitarian assistance to these migrants by tripling our efforts.

“Since May 26, Royal Thai Navy vessels have been deployed to serve as floating platforms to provide humanitarian assistance to those migrants at sea,” Tanasak said.

IOM seeks $26m

Putting the number of boat people affected in the crisis at 10,000 and another 5,000 who are in need of return and reintegration assistance, IOM has placed an appeal for $26 million to address the issue.

As per its demand placed before the meeting, $12.8 million will be spent for temporary shelter and non-food items; $1.4 million for nutrition support; $300,000 for psychological support; $10 million for return and reintegration assistance; and $1.5 million for migration management support and coordination.

An estimated 58,000 people undertook an irregular and dangerous journey by boat in the Bay of Bengal and andaman sea in 2014, joined by another 25,000 in the first quarter of 2015.

They are part of complex migratory movement including refugees, stateless people and economic migrants. reports The nation.