Revealed: Thailand's most senior human trafficking investigator to seek political asylum in Australia
Thailand’s most senior police investigator into human trafficking is seeking political asylum in Australia, saying he fears for his life because influential figures in the Thai government, military and police are implicated in trafficking and want him killed.
Major General Paween Pongsirin arrived in Melbourne a few days ago on a tourist visa and has now told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 7.30 program and Guardian Australia he plans to seek asylum.
For a respected and high-profile police investigator to flee the country and make such serious allegations will be highly embarrassing for the Thai government. Human rights groups have consistently said that the south-east Asian nation has turned a blind eye to the abuse of trafficked people and that many officials are implicated in the trade. Thailand’s military junta denies the claims.
Paween said he hoped Australia would grant him asylum.
“I worked in the trafficking area to help human beings who were in trouble,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking of a personal benefit but now it is me who is in trouble. I believe there should be some safe place for me, somewhere on this earth to help me.”
In May, Thai police discovered more than 30 graves in an abandoned jungle camp near the Malaysian border. Many of the exhumed bodies were believed to be Rohingya Muslims, a long-persecuted minority who have been fleeing Myanmar on rickety boats, arriving in Thailand on their way to the relative safety of Malaysia. Others were asylum seekers and migrants from Bangladesh.
Traffickers have imprisoned these and other asylum seekers in make-shift camps on the Thai-Malaysian border, demanding their relatives pay ransoms for their release. Survivors say that many were raped, beaten and murdered if ransoms were not paid.
Major General Paween was appointed to lead the investigation into the grim discovery, which at the time was interpreted as Thailand treating the issue more seriously. His team uncovered a major human trafficking syndicate but he says that “from the beginning” he was under pressure not to pursue the perpetrators too enthusiastically.
Paween, 57, says he “followed the evidence”. So far, there have been 153 arrest warrants related to trafficking. Last month, 88 people appeared in court for a procedural hearing, including a senior military general alleged to be a kingpin, other military officers, local politicians and business figures.
“All 88 defendants together let victims starve, denied health treatments for sick victims and hid bodies on the mountain (camps) where they died,” a judge reportedly said at the hearing.
But Paween, a career police officer, resigned from the force last month after he was transferred against his will to an insurgency-plagued region in the deep south of Thailand. He said traffickers he was pursuing were influential in this region and “senior police” in the area were involved with the trade. He told his superiors that he feared for his life if he were sent there, but says his protests were ignored.
As well, the investigation he led was disbanded after just five months, despite Paween insisting it was far from finished.
Asked who stopped the investigation, Paween said through an interpreter: “Influential people involved in human trafficking. There are some bad police and bad military who do these kind of things. Unfortunately, those bad police and bad military are the ones that have power.”
Paween did not name the senior officials he alleges are complicit in the human trafficking trade in Thailand, but says the jungle camps would have needed influential oversight to stay open.
“A person who can detain hundreds of people without being arrested for so many years cannot be an ordinary citizen.”
There were many more government officials that should be prosecuted, including those at senior levels.
“Human trafficking is a big network that involves lots of the military, politicians and police. While I was supervising the cases I was warned all along.”
He also blames “influential people” for his transfer. “By re-posting me to the deep south of Thailand it means they want to kill me.”
Paween fears that the upcoming trials will be compromised and that many of those charged will not be convicted. He was due to be a key witness at the trials and knows that many witnesses will feel intimidated from giving evidence. “I feel so sad and it’s so unfair that these people will not be punished.”
Paween’s asylum claim is likely to have international implications. Thailand has previously been annoyed that Washington downgraded it to the lowest category in a report that assesses countries’ willingness to fight human trafficking.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, told Guardian Australia that Paween was an “honest, no nonsense and experienced investigator”.
“Evidently this time his investigation got too close to some powerful people. It is no exaggeration to say that this is a fundamental test case of the commitments that Thailand’s leaders have made to eradicate human trafficking.”
Sitting on the banks of the Yarra River in Melbourne, Paween says he has no idea how the Thai government will react to his asylum claim. He speaks quietly and with little emotion, but says he is “deeply saddened” by being forced to leave his home and being unable to continue his work.
He understands the irony, too, of someone trying to help refugees ending up an asylum seeker himself. It was difficult pursuing those involved, he said, but he “had to do his duty”.
“I didn’t think about those things then. Now I realise it was dangerous.”
ABC’s 7.30 program will broadcast Major General Paween’s story tonight.
พล.ต.ต.ปวีณ อดีตหัวหน้า พนง.สอบสวนคดีค้ามนุษย์โรฮิงญา ขอลี้ภัยอยู่ออสเตรเลียแล้ว หลังถูกคนมีอำนาจ/คนในกองทัพข่มขู่
Human trafficking (or a form of modern slavery) has become a global threat to worldwide population, as it affects unfortunately several millions of people every year. Open this link http://bigpaperwriter.com/blog/what-you … rafficking to know about this problem!
หวังอย่างยิ่งว่าจะได้รับความอนุเคราะห์จากรัฐบาลออสเตรเลีย ประเทศนนี้ คนทำงานตรงไปครงมาอยู่ยาก ถ้าขัดคำสั่ง มีตายกับติดคุกถ้ายังไม่มีที่ใหม่
ขอให้ราบรื่นครับ ไม่น่ามีปัญหา ติดต่อคุณอาคม ซิดนี่ เลย