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Court begins ruling in major Thai human trafficking trial

A Thai general is among more than 100 defendants facing a verdict Wednesday in a sprawling 2015 human trafficking case which saw thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants abandoned at sea and in jungle death camps.

Thailand's junta launched a crackdown in May that year on a multi-million-dollar network running migrants through southern Thailand and onto Malaysia.

It unspooled a crisis across Southeast Asia as gangmasters abandoned their hungry and desperate human cargo in jungle camps and at sea in overcrowded boats which were then "ping ponged" between Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian waters.

Rights groups long accused officials of ignoring -- or even orchestrating -- the trade in humans through Thailand's southern provinces.

The area was the crucial link in a criminal trail that stretched from Myanmar to Malaysia.

The junta crackdown revealed a lattice of military, police, local political and mafia acting as traffickers, brokers and logistics men, all soaking up cash from impoverished migrants.

Bangkok Criminal Court began proceedings on Wednesday morning, with a protracted hearing expected for the verdicts of 102 defendants -- one of the accused died while on remand.

They are accused of offences spanning human trafficking, ransom and murder. All deny the charges.

Media were barred from the court itself, relying instead on an audio relay of the complex proceedings.

Judges placed heavy reporting restrictions on much of the testimony, citing national security concerns. But the case has still lifted the lid on the power networks dominating southern Thailand.

Published : July 19, 2017

By : Agence France-Presse