Trafficking case in limbo

Trafficking case in limbo

The United States' declaration that Myanmar's military committed genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority is a major step to bringing justice to the issue.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the formal accusation on Monday at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington where an exhibition on the plight of the Rohingya is being held.

Mr Blinken said: "The day will come when those responsible for these appalling acts will have to answer for them."

Even though the condemnation carries no particular punitive action, levelling such charges as genocide and crimes against humanity at Myanmar's military will increase the likelihood of holding those who are responsible for the atrocities accountable.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) launched a full investigation into Myanmar's alleged crimes against humanity in 2019. The case revolved around operations by Myanmar's military in Rakhine in 2017 that forced hundreds of thousands of mainly Muslim Rohingya to flee to neighbouring countries.

According to Mr Blinken, the crackdown on the Rohingya was "widespread and systematic", with a clear intent to destroy the minority group.

As the Rohingya tried to escape from the alleged atrocities -- killings, mass rape and arson, according to reports by human rights groups and independent researchers -- they fell victim to human traffickers trying to make money out of their plight.

Thailand is one of the countries along the routes that the Rohingya used to escape persecution and poor living conditions.

Boats packed full of displaced Rohingya of all ages hoping to make it to refugee camps or sheltering countries were often seen in the news following the crackdown in 2017.

Embarrassingly, Thailand also saw cases of abuse of the Rohingya. The most notorious was the discovery of mass graves of Rohingya migrants near the Thai-Malaysian border which led to the prosecution of more than 100 suspects on human trafficking and other charges.

The case was unprecedented as some of the suspects included government officials -- such as the then-mayor of Padang Besar and the chief of the Satun Provincial Administrative Office -- and military officials, the most well-known of whom was Lt Gen Manas Kongpan.

Lt Gen Manas, an army adviser allegedly with connections in high places, especially in the deep South, is the highest-ranking officer so far to have been convicted of human trafficking.

The irony in the story, however, is that the police officer in charge of what surely must rank as the highest-profile human trafficking case in recent history -- Pol Maj Gen Paween Pongsirin -- was forced to leave the country and seek asylum in Australia.

Details about how he fled for his life because he received death threats after his probe seemed to have disturbed "influential" people who wanted to silence him only emerged recently when Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome discussed the case in parliament.

Although the police insisted they continued to chase runaway suspects in the Padang Besar case while pursuing others related to the crime of human trafficking, they did not touch on allegations relating to those "influential" people who apparently wanted to trample on the investigation launched by Pol Maj Gen Paween, if not the justice process itself.

The case has dragged on for more than six years. It is about time to get to the bottom of it.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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