Mention Koh Tarutao in the Andaman Sea and most Thais will think of a pristine island with lush green forests, sandy beaches and world-famous coral reefs. Few remember its horrific past as a maximum security prison for hard-core convicts and political prisoners.
Last week, British television's Channel 4 told the world how Tarutao is being used as a prison once again _ this time by brutal human trafficking gangsters who use the southern tip of the island to incarcerate and torture Muslim Rohingya boat people to extort ransom money before selling them into slavery.
In the documentary, correspondent John Sparks traced the deprivation and ethnic violence that the Muslim Rohingya face in Myanmar which drove them to join the boat people exodus in search of a better future. They reportedly paid about 200 (9,700 baht) to the human smugglers who promise to take them to their dream destinations, Malaysia and Australia. The journey was cut short at Tarutao and other islands in the Andaman Sea where they were forced to pay as much as 1,500 for their release.