Thailand’s immigration police have arrested the drivers of two vans who were caught smuggling Myanmar migrants to Samut Sakhon. Nine of the 16 passengers in their vehicles were found to be illegal migrants.
Their vans were stopped and searched by Immigration police and local officials at a petrol station in tambon Khlong Sai of Tha Chang district late on Wednesday night.
Pol Lt Col Chatree Chukaew, deputy chief of the Surat Thani immigration office, said there were seven Myanmar nationals in one van, driven by Phitsanusin Imbunsu, of Bangkok’s Nong Khaem district.
There were nine others, including a 5-month-old baby and 12-year-old child, in the second, driven by Rungthiya Boocha, of Chai Nat’s Manorom district.
Seven of the passengers had documents to enter the country legally. The nine others were illegal migrants from Myanmar. During questioning, Mr Phitsanusin admitted the passengers were part of a group that had travelled from Malaysia, police said.
They had waited for him and another van driver to collect them. He had picked up passengers in Songkhla (6 people), Krabi (3), Phuket (4), Phangnga (2) and Surat Thani (1).
The other van took off with its Myanmar passengers before the arresting team arrived.
Mr Phitsanusin said he drove his van to the petrol station to transfer passengers to Mr Rungthiya’s van. They consequently planned to travel to Bangkok and Samut Sakhon province.
All suspects were taken to a local health office for Covid-19 tests before they were handed over to Tha Chang police station for legal action.
They faced charges of violating the Communicable Disease Act, the emergency decree and the Immigration Act.
Police arrested for smuggling illegal migrants
In early January the Royal Thai Police reported 33 police officers and state officials were suspected of illegal migrant smuggling. Police said that a probe had found 33 officials to be involved in smuggling illegal migrant workers across the Thai-Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi.
Among them are more than 20 police, and officials from other state agencies.
Some had been negligent over the smuggling of migrants while others were involved in the crime themselves.
Police said they would issue arrest warrants for eight other Thais who are part of a smuggling gang which snuck migrants into Thailand. They sent them to work in Samut Sakhon, the epicentre of the recent Covid-19 outbreak.
Police said they would step up border security patrols to prepare for the registration of illegal foreign workers in Thailand.