Phangnga cop faces axe in human trafficking probe

PHANGNGA : A Phangnga police officer charged with trafficking Rohingya refugees is likely to be suspended or dismissed as the investigation into his actions proceeds, the provincial police commander said.

Police take an alleged Rohingya rape victim, right, to a hut on Koh Ra for a rape re-enactment. A Rohingya migrant and a police officer have been accused of luring five Rohingya females, two of them underage, for trafficking purposes. One of them was allegedly raped. ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT

Pol Snr Sgt Maj Veerayut Ferngfu, from Thai Muang police station in Phangnga province, is accused of luring five Rohingya refugees from their shelter and taking money from them with the promise of helping them to move on to a third country.

He was initially charged with trafficking one woman, but is now accused on five counts as the woman's two daughters and two other adults were also allegedly involved. The mother claims she was also repeatedly raped by Korlimula Ramahaty, Pol Snr Sgt Maj Veerayut's Rohingya accomplice, who worked as a translator at the Phangnga shelter.

Phangnga police commander Pol Maj Gen Chalit Kaewyarat said yesterday that the provincial police would finalise the suspension or dismissal of Pol Snr Sgt Maj Veerayut within the next day or two.

"We do not intend to delay the case. We want to give fairness to all," Pol Maj Gen Chalit said.

"In Pol Snr Sgt Maj Veerayut's case, the criminal charges against him have left us with no option but to suspend or dismiss him, and he will be severely disciplined or fired if he is found guilty."

Pol Snr Sgt Maj Veerayut and Mr Ramahaty, 26, have been charged with trafficking offences. Mr Ramahaty has also been charged with rape.

Five female Rohingya, including the mother, 25, and her daughters, aged 12 and nine, and two other women, were allegedly lured from Phangnga state shelter on May 27 by the two suspects, according to a police investigation.

The suspects allegedly told the victims they would transport them to Malaysia to meet relatives there. The suspects asked the three adults to pay 50,000 baht each for the service. The two children were exempt from the payment.

Two of the women _ Laila, 22, and Yohala Baeklom, 19, were released 11 days later in Surat Thani after they paid only 20,000 baht each.

Meanwhile, the mother and her two children were taken to Koh Ra, one hour from Khura Buri district. The mother said Mr Ramahaty raped her three times there. She and her children were found on a roadside last week and were taken back to the shelter, where the mother contacted police.

Police took Mr Ramahaty and the five victims for a crime re-enactment yesterday. Pol Snr Sgt Maj Veerayut did not attend.

Pol Snr Sgt Maj Veerayut was charged with collaboration in human trafficking, coercion and detention, and negligence and dereliction of duty.

Mr Ramahaty, who carried a migrant card issued in Pattani province, was charged with collaboration in human trafficking, detention and rape.

Both suspects denied all charges.

At the re-enactment, the 12-year-old daughter of the alleged rape victim berated Mr Ramahaty, threatening to throw her shoes at him. She was stopped by officials.

Phangnga shelter head Dararat Suthes said Mr Ramahaty appeared at the shelter a week before luring the five victims away.

Ms Dararat said he convinced the refugees that Thailand would rather send them back home to Myanmar than on to third countries, so many believed he might help take them elsewhere.

About the author

Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter